Versus the Overclass in Regards Term Paper

  • Length: 11 pages
  • Sources: 3
  • Subject: Criminal Justice
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #34298744

Excerpt from Term Paper :

That is if no successful intervention takes place. Campson and Laub go on to say that:

We further hypothesize that the concentration of racial poverty and inequality will exert macrolevel effects on punitive forms of social control that are larger for blacks than whites and for drug offenses than other delinquencies. As argued above, the dual image of minority offenders and the "drug war" appears to have formed a symbolic yet potent threat to the middle class population. (Sampson, and Laub 293)

In sharp contrast to this perceived threat, overclass crime such as embezzlement or other money pilfering schemes, are often considered merely "paper crimes" and disasters such as Enron, while horrific to the persons involved, are not the fodder for sensational journalism. Computers and stock reports are not as interesting as police chases and body counts when it comes to attracting the attention of lay people, criminologist and forensic psychiatrists. Non-violent theft and crime, typically committed by the overclass are least perceived because of the lack of media attention while underclass crime is overly covered in the news. (Poortinga, Lemmen, & Jibson)

In Myron Magnet's article "Rebels With a Cause," the author has some very harsh realities regarding the initial spurring of this subculture:

This is a predictable result of unimaginably weak families, headed by immature, irresponsible girls, who are at the margin of the community, pathological in their own behavior, and too often lacking the knowledge, interest, and inner resources to be successful molders of strong characters in children. Too many underclass mothers can't enforce the necessary prohibitions for children -- or for themselves. And most under-class families lack a father, a vital agent of socialization. (Magnet 48)

It would appear that Gibbs has an ally in Magnet regarding the moral and social maladaptaions of the underclass. This perceived lack of moral turpitude also creates a threat to the mores of the overclass as well as the fear of all classes that the underclass' ideologies will overwhelm the majority's way of life. After all, violence and crime is a way of life for the underclass, "Drug abuse, gun crime and domestic violence (including child abuse), common assault and general thuggery are all trademark characteristics." (Gibbs)

Examining Gibbs' last statement and the pejorative aspect that Magnet has taken towards this entire class, is it any wonder that an "us against them" attitude has arisen. While this perception is certainly overblown by the media, it must be noted that obviously all members of the underclass are not criminals. Yet these individual are under the same scrutiny as if they were and consequently will be more prejudiced against in many situations, such as getting jobs. This becomes one of the greatest social strain turning points for a juvenile on the edge. Once someone is denied legal employment over and over again, often the only alternative is illegal activity.

Racial components also play a role in this increasingly suspicious perspective. "The data are generally consistent with the hypothesis that underclass blacks are viewed as a threatening group to middleclass populations and are thus subjected to increased control by the juvenile justice system." (Sampson, and Laub 285) One may extrapolate that this view is often relevant for other ethnic groups as well and carries with it an increasing inequality when it comes not only to meeting our justice, but also in increased violence by officers on patrol in the streets. Racial profiling certainly increases that likelihood that an officer may overreact in certain situations. Furthermore, it was noted by Randall a. Gordon in his study, "Perceptions for Blue-Collar and White-Collar Crime: The Effects of Subject and Defendant Race on Simulated Juror Decisions," that perception by race was certainly a two edged assumption. The study showed that a black defendant who had committed a blue collar crime, that is a crime that contained actual physical contact with either stolen merchandise of a personal attack on a victim, was judged more harshly then a white defendant accused of the exact same crime. However, conversely a white defendant accused of a white-collar crime was sentenced more harshly than his counterpart black offender. The author of the studies theorizes that the jurors perceived the white defendant as more likely to commit a white-collar crime than the black defendants, and visa versa, so the punishments were consequently more sever.(Gordon)

This was also borne out in another study entitled, "A Case Control Study: White-Collar

Defendants Compared with Defendants Charged with Other Nonviolent Theft." There is almost ten years difference between studies but this particular perception has not changed much:

Controlling for education differences, white-collar defendants were more likely to be white than were control subjects. This finding is consistent with those of several other studies. Unfortunately, education was the only socioeconomic variable collected. Controlling for race, white-collar defendants were more educated than control subjects. Both black and white-collar defendants were likely to have more education.. (Poortinga, Lemmen, & Jibson 87)

Furthermore, Gordon's study also revealed that the jurors believed that black offenders were perceived more likely than white offenders to be repeating offenders. Magnet follows up with the following, using a famous authors words to support his view regarding the underclass environment and the black community

In this man-made wasteland, blacks inhabit the deepest circle of oppression and victimization. They have "been living on the margin between totalitarianism and democracy for two centuries," wrote [Norman] Mailer. In the injustice of the capitalist order, they are Marx's impoverished industrial reserve army, "a cultureless and alienated bottom of exploitable human material." (Magnet 50)

This view, again, seems to be constantly expounded by society and researchers alike, that this is a war between opposing armies and only one can win. But the battles seem to have been ranging for centuries.

To try and create at least a balanced perception that something is being done to equalize the treatment of overclass criminals, the Labor Attorney General of England and Wales was quoted in the London Independent in 2003 as saying the following:

Setting out government plans for a more "even-handed" approach to tackling fraud, he said: "Social equality requires that we bear down on white-collar crime as effectively as on blue-collar crime, such as fraud in obtaining social security." Lord Goldsmith said he intended to act against company directors and City professionals by using his power to refer cases of "undue leniency" to the Court of Appeal so that harsher punishments can be imposed. (Verkaik)

Although it should be noted that the particular crime he chose to quote in this instance is more often committed by the underclass than the overclass. Showing the habitual disconnect between reality and the perception of the facts.

In general there are two overall views of society that most systems of government fall into, the consensus view and the conflict view. The consensus view is a system whereby it is understood that the laws of the land are put in place in order to protect the majority of the population, to serve the greater good. Criminal justice is meted out on a fixed scale of values according to the seriousness of the crime, and not merely by whom committed said crime. (Sampson, and Laub) While this sounds like the ideal system, that is all it may be, an ideal on which government was originally conceived. In practice however the scales are not often as balanced as this clear-cut viewpoint. In realty, the process of governmental justice is largely composed of the converse perception of the conflict view.

The conflict theory views society itself as several separate groups, many with conflicting and contrasting viewpoints and values. In this view the state is perceived as representing the interests of the overclass. In this justice system, laws are enacted in order to protect this class and their powerful and elitist interests. Punishment here is often based on more fungible variables and is inconsistent with a fixed system and more in line with a prejudicial overcompensating rule of law that uses variable such as race and social class to further exacerbate the punishment not truly fitting the crime. (Sampson, and Laub) the conflict viewpoint seems to fit the current situation more precisely.

One proposition drawn from conflict theory is that groups which threaten the hegemony of middle- and upper-class rule are more likely to be subjected to intensified social control-more criminalization, more formal processing by the criminal justice system, and increased incarceration compared with groups that are perceived as less threatening to the status quo (Sampson, and Laub 288)

In some ways all governments have been set up like this from the start, imposing the will of the ruling class upon the lower classes. "The fundamental purpose of the social order is to restrain man's instinctual aggressiveness, so that human life can be something higher than a war of all against all." (Magnet 84) Unfortunately, the result is often more of conflict than it is of…

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