BOOK REVIEWS Russian Mafia in America: Immigration, Culture

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of Contemporary Criminal Justice / February 2002
BOOK REVIEWS
Russian Mafia in America: Immigration, Culture, and Crime. By James O.
Finckenauer and Elin J. Waring. Boston: Northeastern University Press,
1998, 303 pages.
Writing about popular topics is always risky because facts do not always agree with
popular conceptions. This is especially true of a topic such as the Russian exemplification of organized crime here in America. However, the authors, James Finckenauer
and Elin Waring, have not hesitated to look deeply into the question of whether an
organization such as the “Russian Mafia” even exists. They look at the concept of
organized crime and the difficulty of even defining it and then at the use of the word
Mafia, again difficult to define but readily used by the media, movie makers, and the
public to convey an image.
The authors must deal with the issue of ethnicity in general as well as “the queer
ladder of social mobility” in identifying organized crime and then relating it to the various groups of Russian immigration in the United States. Therefore, in considering
the question of the existence of a “Russian Mafia,” they must also look at the history of
these waves of immigration. The early groups of immigrants behaved no differently
than any of their predecessors moving into the bowels of New York City. They
brought with them their culture and their attitude toward authority no less than the
Irish, the Jews, and the Italians, who also dealt in crime, among other things. It is with
the last group that the authors are most concerned.
In addition to showing how the various theories of criminal behavior and the characteristics of organized crime applied to the Russian immigrant groups, the authors
focus essentially on the mass migration of the late 1980s and early 1990s from the former Soviet Union. They are able to capitalize on much of the research conducted by
the Tri-State Joint Soviet Émigré Organized Crime Project, which gives them much
valuable information on various criminal activities conducted within these immigrant
groups and in conjunction with various La Cosa Nostra families.
In Chapter 5, they explain the Russian criminal tradition as it developed within the
state bureaucracy and the communist party of the Soviet Union. Without this explanation, the reader would lack the essential understanding of the Russian criminal tradition, a rebellion against authority that was considered acceptable behavior with the
former Soviet Union.
Chapter 6 looks at the current state of organized crime in Russia itself, which carries a high degree of criminal sophistication due to the availability of so many unemployed people with technical expertise. They note that current Russian society is in
such a condition that business interests are best dealt with outside regular channels
and thus provides an ample arena for organized criminal organization. It is because of
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, Vol. 18 No. 1, February 2002 94-109
© 2002 Sage Publications
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this situation that organized crime is thought to control as much as 40% of Russia’s
gross national product (GNP). This chapter also looks at the question of whether there
is a Mafia within Russia itself. They point out the many ethnicities within Russian and
suggest that Eurasian organized crime might be a more accurate term, if it is applicable at all.
Chapter 7 deals with Russian émigré crime in the United States, and here the
research available through the Tri-State Joint Project on Soviet Émigré Organized
Crime is used to analyze. Patterns are looked for and specific examples of Soviet criminal schemes are examined in detail.
In Chapter 8, the authors use network analysis to examine the structure of Soviet
émigré crime primarily within the Tri-State area. This use of mathematical techniques
to analyze and interpret relationships is not common, but here they are able to show
clearly the overlap and various relationships quite clearly between various émigré
groups and between these groups and known groups of La Cosa Nostra.
With Chapter 10, we are given an answer to the question of whether there is a Russian Mafia in the United States and the answer is a solid no, based on good research
and analysis. The authors conclude that the term Mafia is loosely used too frequently
and not does apply to Russian émigré criminal activity.
Finckenauer and Waring have contributed an impressive analysis to the study of
transnational organized crime. This book would serve as an excellent starting point
for someone interested in the specific area of Russian organized crime and also as a
supplement to any advanced course on organized crime. It is very readable and structured in a way that takes it in an organized manner from the initial question as to the
existence of Russian organized crime to the answer.
— Wally ZeMans
California State University
at Long Beach
The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison: Ideology, Class, and Criminal
Justice. By Jeffrey Reiman. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2001,
238 pages. $26.00.
In the sixth edition of The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, author Jeffrey
Reiman’s concepts and observations are as relevant today as when the original work
was published more than 20 years ago. Although in current times there is an abundance of evidence in support of the main thesis—the criminal justice system fails to
reduce crime substantially while causing it to appear that serious crime is almost
exclusively the work of the poor—the sixth edition offers a forum for the exchange of
ideas concerning positive change. A Web site was created (www.abacon.com/reiman)
to allow students and teachers to discuss alternative concepts for improving the criminal justice system in the United States (the Web site was not up and running when this
review was written). This edition also includes an essay on Marxian theory and chap-
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Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice / February 2002
ter summaries with relevant questions that can be used as study guides and to lead discussion in the classroom.
Reiman presents the argument that the decline in crime rates can be attributed not to
recent get-tough-on-crime policies, but rather to factors outside of the criminal justice
system: reduction in unemployment, stabilization of the drug trade, and a decrease in
the number of young men in the crime-prone years. He convincingly dispels the four
most common myths concerning the failure of government to provide safe lives for its
citizens: the laws and courts are too lenient, increasing urbanization leads to more
crime, youth population expansion results in more crime, and we simply do not know
how to effectively reduce crime. He expounds on the nature of sources of crime, to
wit: poverty and the widening gap between the rich and the poor, incarceration and the
cycle of recidivism, the proliferation of handguns, and the criminalization of drugs
and the association with crime. His claims are those of a radical criminologist who is
intending to further alternative explanations and discussions of crime and how those
who commit crime are dealt with by the criminal justice system.
Reiman postulates what he terms the Pyrrhic defeat theory and how it is applied to
criminal justice policy. This theory “argues that the failure of the criminal justice system yields such benefits to those in positions of power that it amounts to successes”
(p. 5). This leads the reader to believe that this failure serves to project a particular
image of crime, one that during the years has painted a portrait of the poor, the African
American, the Hispanic, and the inner-city residents as the perpetrators of crime in the
United States. Reiman does not agree that the criminal justice system is particularly
racist. Rather, the criminal justice system is biased toward the poor, who coincidentally are Black, Hispanic, and inner-city dwellers. His focus is primarily on the image
that this failure conveys rather than its repressive function.
According to Reiman, “Economic powers that be in America have sufficient power
to end or drastically reduce racist bias in the criminal justice system. To the extent that
they [the upper-class] allow it to exist, it is not unreasonable to assume that it furthers
their economic interests” (p. 113). If the public image of crime is perpetuated by the
haves in society, there are five hypotheses Reiman posits than can be used to describe
the way in which this image of crime is created: the definitions of crime in criminal
law do not reflect the only, nor the most dangerous of antisocial behaviors; the decisions on whom to arrest/charge do not reflect the only, nor the most dangerous behaviors legally defined as criminal; criminal convictions do not reflect the only, nor the
most dangerous individuals arrested and charged; sentencing decisions do not reflect
the goal of protecting society from the most dangerous of those convicted by meting
out punishment proportionate to the crime committed; and criminal justice policy
decisions reflect the implicit identification of crime with the dangerous acts of the
poor. With the resultant distorted image and erroneous index of crime, Reiman reasons that the criminal justice system does not protect its citizens against the gravest
threats to life and possessions.
Reiman also presents a very convincing case that the adjudication process works in
two ways to ensure that those who are incarcerated will be not merely guilty of crimes
but will be the guilty poor. First, for the same crime, the system is more likely to inves-
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tigate, arrest, charge, sentence, and sentence to prison for longer times individuals of
lower socioeconomic status (SES) than those of middle or upper SES. Second, more
severe and lengthy punishment is meted out by the system for street crimes (typically
committed by the poor) than those characteristically committed by the wealthier
classes (white-collar and corporate crimes). What is missing, according to Reiman, is
a commitment to punish those who commit crimes against the environment, who
commit infractions in the workplace, and who create more long-term damage to the
economy than those who are arrested and subsequently prosecuted for street crime.
Reiman explains that the current failure of criminal justice policy is actually three
failures that work concurrently: failure to implement policies that are most likely to
reduce crime, failure to identify as crimes the harmful acts of the rich and powerful,
and the failure to eliminate economic bias against the poor in the criminal justice system. Furthermore, by failing to reduce crime so that it remains a threat to middle
America, it deflects fear and discontent, and possible opposition, away from the
wealthy. The implicit ideological message in focusing on individual rather than corporate guilt is that the social system itself is a just one.
In his concluding chapter, Reiman suggests strategies to rehabilitate the criminal
justice system and protect society. Eradicating crime-producing poverty and minimizing the inequality gap between the haves and the have nots, proportioning the
crime to fit the harm and the punishment to fit the crime, legitimizing the production
and sale of drugs and treating addiction as a medical problem, developing correctional
programs that promote rather than undermine personal responsibility, and enacting
and enforcing stringent gun controls are among his suggestions. The appendix giving
a summary of Marxian theories of capitalism, law, and criminal justice is sound and
will prove to provide a useful backdrop for discussion of his premises in the classroom
setting. As he notes on page 7, his Pyrrhic defeat theory is an amalgam of the writings
of major Western philosophers such as Marx, Durkheim, Erickson, and Quinney.
Albeit radical in nature, this book delivers a powerful image of the unvarnished
conditions of an economically biased adjudication process and backs up these claims
using solid theory and official statistics from reputable data sources. During the
course of the past 20 years, this book has continued to reveal how we have arrived at
this precarious precipice in the American criminal justice system. Reiman continues
to support the hypotheses presented in the first edition and edifies and furthers the
concepts in this sixth edition: There is justice in America but it is expensive. The information in The Rich Get Richer should be included in the curriculum as a contributor to
any comprehensive program of criminal justice education. His arguments can be used
successfully to spawn conversation and discourse in the classroom about Western
philosophical theory, the phenomenon of crime in America, data collection methods,
and critical/radical criminology.
— Ricky S. Gutierrez
California State University,
Sacramento
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Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice / February 2002
Research Methods for Criminology and Criminal Justice. By M. L. Danzker
and Ronald D. Hunter. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2000, 267 pages.
$58.00.
Professors teaching research method classes will find this book to be straightforward, well-organized, and easy to follow. Dantzker and Hunter provide many examples from their research experience to explain some difficult concepts. The authors
also use realistic examples, methodological links, and diagrams to help students
transfer from a conceptual framework to research field.
The book is divided into six sections with 14 chapters: Purpose of Research, Problem Formation, Research Design, Data Collection, Data Analysis, and Closure. After
using this book for four semesters, I have found these divisions to be logical, practical,
and convenient, especially for undergraduate students.
In teaching undergraduate research methods, I believe that the first problem that
instructors have to overcome is to ease the fear or daunting feeling experienced by
undergraduate students. Dantzker and Hunter begin each chapter with a vignette or a
real-life situation that students may have experienced. This is a unique pedagogical
tool that often promotes a student’s interest in the chapter topic. The summary at the
end of each chapter briefly reviews the key concepts that have been presented.
Another positive feature is the questions under “Methodological Queries.” These
exercise questions ask students to apply the concepts in the chapter to the real world.
The summary and the “Methodological Queries” are quite useful in reemphasizing
the confusion or problems presented in the vignette.
The “Methodological Links” in the book are the excerpts from literature in criminology and criminal justice. Complete versions of these excerpts are available from a
supplementary book Readings for Criminology and Criminal Justice Research
(Dantzker, YEAR?). Each excerpt provides examples of how the issue under discussion in the text has been addressed in a real research project, including “research as
participant,” “types of hypothesis,” and “operationalization.” The supplementary
reading book accompanying the text contains 11 articles and has three main functions.
It presents a variety of methodological techniques that have been employed by the
researchers, such as observation-participant, telephone survey, and secondary data.
The book also provides two research projects using qualitative method and contains
research articles on many important issues, such as policing, women offenders, violent crime, corrections, and asset forfeiture laws.
In my 8 years of teaching research methods, I have noticed that students tend to
believe that a research methods class is a very boring course. They take it simply
because, as in my department, it is a core course and thus required for the degree in
criminal justice. In part, the subject itself is more abstract and conceptual than other
courses in the curriculum. Furthermore, most of the books on research method are
written using academic jargon, longer sentences, and a convoluted discussion of certain concepts like validity and reliability, fallacy, reductionism, or types of experimental design. As a primer or introductory book, Dantzker and Hunter use simple language and understandable examples to explain complicated concepts. Moreover,
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there are figures, tables, and boxes in their text that highlight research tips, important
concepts, ethical problems, and practical issues in conducting research projects.
Because criminal justice research often deals with negative aspects of human
behavior, ethical concerns are extremely important. This is particularly true when we
teach research methods to undergraduate students. Dantzker and Hunter discuss
research ethics in Chapter 2, which allows the professor to present ethical issues in
research early in the semester. A very positive feature of the book is that the authors
discuss ethical issues from four levels: the researcher’s role, ethical considerations,
professionalism, and ethical research criteria. Finally, the text presents an example of
an IRB DEFINE ACRONYM submission and cites the ethical concerns considered
in this stage of the research process.
In teaching research methods, there has been a sensitive debate regarding whether
qualitative or quantitative research is more academic. Dantzker and Hunter take a balanced approach in this dispute. Instead of entering the controversy, they explain in
Chapter 5 how qualitative method is needed by criminology and criminal justice and,
in Chapter 6, discuss how the quantitative approach is better suited for certain types of
research.
Perhaps the most unique parts of this book are Chapters 11 and 12, which offer an
introduction to data processing, analysis, and inferential statistics. In most research
method books, statistical information is excluded because it is considered a separate
topic. These two chapters, however, may be a double-edged sword. First, statistics lies
between observation and empirical findings in the “Wheel of Science,” thus playing
an essential role in research methods. Second, these two chapters can be used as a
transition for students who will also take statistics. In my opinion, teaching research
methods is incomplete without statistics. Separating the two only makes the two
related subjects more fragmented. These two chapters enable instructors of research
methods to organize their courses with some continuity.
Finally, the most positive feedback of the book from my students is on Chapters 13
and 14. They found these two chapters to be particularly useful. “Writing the
Research” of Chapter 13 offers students step-by-step information on writing a
research paper. Chapter 14, entitled “Summing Up,” organizes all the information into
a handy reference guide, reviewing briefly all the important concepts in the book.
Overall, Research Methods for Criminology and Criminal Justice by M. L.
Danzker and Ronald D. Hunter is a valuable textbook for any professor interested in
teaching a research method class, especially for undergraduate criminal justice students.
REFERENCE
Dantzker, M. L. (Ed.). (YEAR?). Readings for criminology and criminal justice
research. LOCATION, PUBLISHER?
— John Z. Wang
California State University,
Long Beach
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Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice / February 2002
Controlling the Dangerous Classes: A Critical Introduction to the History of
Criminal Justice. By Randall Shelden. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2001.
Although Shelden’s original framework for this book began more than 20 years
ago, the material is thorough and relevant, with current examples that help synthesize
key points. The introduction describes the various methods of sociological inquiry
used by the author for his examination of the history of criminal justice. To achieve the
goal of social justice, this value-laden contribution necessarily must be written from a
critical perspective. Shelden’s book, Controlling the Dangerous Classes, draws on the
critical perspective because this allows the reader to address the question of “Why
not?” because, in looking back, we might be able to see with greater clarity what
“could have been” (p. 2). The introduction also contains a thorough analysis of the
consensus, conflict, and Marxist models of criminology.
Shelden reminds us throughout the book that the management of the dangerous
classes is not a recent phenomenon (p. 18). In fact, his thesis is that the making of laws
and the interpretation and application of these laws throughout the criminal justice
system historically has been class, gender, and racially biased (p. 19). More precisely,
there are really two systems of justice: one for the privileged and another for the less
privileged (Shelden citing Cole, 1999, p. 9).
The first chapter explores the development of the criminal law. Much of what is
covered in this introductory chapter (i.e., criminal law in ancient times, The Law of
the Twelve Tables, and the emergence of the concept of crime) is not unlike what is
found in most criminal justice textbooks. However, what distinguishes this introductory chapter from most beginning sections of criminal justice textbooks is that the historical analyses clearly reveal how the creation of the criminal law serves as a catalyst
for the bourgeoisie to perpetuate the class system, thus repressing the proletariat.
Most telling is the recent war on drugs. A plethora of evidence is presented, illustrating one of the author’s minor premises: Those who have the gold make the rules (p. 20).
Shelden often asks whose interest does the law serve, and he is able to substantiate
his claim that not all laws serve the interest of the ruling class. Whereas some critics of
Shelden’s work may agree that some laws are inherently discriminatory, they would
surely point out that the codification of the crime homicide reflects the interests of all
people. Shelden would respond by suggesting that certain classes of perpetrators were
never ordered to stand trial for killing people (i.e., Ford Pinto case, black lung disease,
etc.).
Chapters 2, 3, and 4 focus on the 3 Cs (cops, courts, and corrections). The second
chapter addresses the development of the police institution as a means of containing
the lower class. Particular reference is made to the fact that police departments were
formed and officers deployed all in a concerted effort to contain, regulate, and control
the behavior of the underclass in a manner commensurate with the “search and
destroy” philosophy as described by Jerome Miller.
In the third chapter, Shelden explains that the prosecutor is a gatekeeper of the system because he or she decides whether to prosecute. Yet, ample evidence is presented
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that the judicial system is also a gatekeeper of the system because they continually
make decisions that determine who enters the prison system; if so, for how long; and
where they will be housed. This point is well made during his thorough examination
of the death penalty when Shelden points out that Blacks that kill Whites are most
likely to be sentenced to death (p. 148).
Not only do prisons serve to house the incorrigible, but they have also played a
major role in America’s economic development. In Chapter 4, Shelden explains that
“the emergence and growth of the prison system corresponded to the emergence
and growth of capitalism as a dominant economic form” (p. 153), and concludes his
analysis of the prison industrial complex with the chilling reality that because “we
cannot use the crude techniques of control common in totalitarian societies (e.g., torture, genocide), we have invented new ‘crimes’ and new ‘criminals’ to justify prison
expansion—namely drugs” (p. 192).
Chapters 5 and 6 are devoted to illustrating how juveniles and women have been
historically dominated vis-à-vis patriarchal ideologies. In his last chapter, Shelden’s
look into the new millenium is rather bleak. He argues that the criminal justice industrial complex is growing by leaps and bounds. It is also pointed out that America is so
vested in this crime industrial complex that we have a lot to lose should crime
decrease. Moreover, capitalism has many negative effects, and the inequality that has
allowed the repressed to be exploited is only getting worse. In his final chapter,
Shelden sets the stage for further analysis regarding the expansion of the criminal justice system and the demise of the underclass in his forthcoming book entitled, The
American Gulag: The Emergence and Growth of the Prison Industrial Complex.
This book reminds us what has transpired in recent years and offers a proscription
for what needs to be done to ensure fundamental fairness in our criminal justice system. In the closing pages, Shelden advocates the pursuit of peacemaking criminology,
suggesting that “without such hatred and violence, there will be no need to even have,
much less need to control, the dangerous classes” (p. 291).
Although Shelden’s book makes a significant contribution to the literature on critical criminology, it leaves the reader grasping for practical solutions. An additional
chapter presenting preventative strategies and policy recommendations to address the
current injustices in the criminal justice system that resonate with the reader is
needed.
Randall Shelden’s work has relevancy for today’s social problems even though it is
a historical examination of the criminal justice system. He clearly articulates the
impetus for racial profiling, bias-based policing, the war on drugs, and other
macroaggressions toward the dangerous classes. The book is a brilliant accomplishment that presents a scholarly analysis to the historical discrimination of the working
class who are disproportionately minority group members.
Shelden’s Controlling the Dangerous Classes is an outstanding contribution to the
scholarly literature on Marxist criminology that should be reserved for advanced
upper-division courses. Moreover, Shelden’s work should be added to the comprehensive reading list for all doctoral programs in criminology and criminal justice.
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Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice / February 2002
REFERENCE
Cole, INITIAL? (1999). PLEASE PROVIDE COMPLETE REFERENCE
— Steve Cooper
Chapman University–Manhattan
Beach
Shots in the Mirror: Crime Films and Society. By Nicole Rafter. LOCATION?: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Film is a medium that historically has been dominated by images of crime and
criminality. Films abound that deal seriously (and sometimes not so seriously) with
the issues that criminologists spend their days studying and analyzing. Sutherland
(1947) defined criminology as the study of “the making of law, breaking of law, and
reaction to the breaking of law.” The latter two dimensions are found in many modern
films and provide the basis for a number of film genres: horror films, courtroom dramas, police procedurals, action films, prison movies, and westerns. However, there is
a lack of serious attention afforded to crime films in the academic study and teaching
of criminology. Rafter’s book, Shots in the Mirror: Crime Films and Society, contributes significantly to the rectification of this deficiency. Rafter has produced a work
that highlights the relationship between crime films and society, thus making clear the
important place that serious analysis and discourse of the medium has in the discipline
of criminology.
Based on her experiences teaching criminology and the fact that students often
relate what they are learning to images and themes in popular films, Rafter developed
a course on crime films. She was immediately confronted by the paucity of literature
relevant to her course. It was at that point that she decided to write this book. What
resulted is a thorough consideration of the representation of law, crime, and criminals
in the most dominant medium for the dissemination of popular culture in society
today—film. One comes away from this book with a new respect for and understanding of the representation of crime in films and the importance it holds for the future of
research and teaching in the field of criminology.
In her introduction, Rafter puts forth the thesis that crime films have traditionally
made two particular statements. First, they criticize certain aspects of society such as
police brutality and corruption, prison violence, or the threat of crime and victimization. Second, they generally offer resolution in which “good” triumphs over the evils
that we experience vicariously in such films. In Rafter’s words, “Crime films offer us
contradictory sorts of satisfaction: the reality of what we fear to be true and the fantasy
of overcoming that reality” (p. 3). She is quick to add that although this “double movement” characterized virtually all crime films until the early 1970s, an alternative tradition has developed that resists such easy resolutions. Rather, such “alternative” crime
films offer bleak and often disturbing views of crime and crime control where evil is
not necessarily triumphed over. Although the traditional approach still pervades the
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majority of crime films today, the alternative tradition is noteworthy in the larger analysis of crime films and their relation to ideology and culture.
For the purposes of her analyses, Rafter defines crime films as “films that focus primarily on crime and its consequences” (p. 5). Not included, according to Rafter, are
films such as action films and comedies in which crime may be a central event but is
not treated as a serious issue. Furthermore, Rafter considered four criteria in selecting
films for analysis: (a) whether they were critical or popular successes, (b) whether
they say something important about the relationship between crime and society,
(c) whether they hold a position of significance in film history, and (d) whether they
convey messages about the implications of crime films for the social construction of
values and ideology. Following these criteria, Rafter proceeds to explain “how crime
films contribute to and reflect our ideas of crime and justice, good and evil” as well as
“the nature of their attraction” (p. 4), with an impressively comprehensive analysis
that considers more than 300 crime films.
Chapter 1, written by Drew Todd, presents a history of crime films in America,
placing crime films in social and cultural context. This chapter serves primarily as a
sort of historical timeline of crime films. This becomes an important framework as the
reader is confronted by the subsequent chapters. Rafter places particular importance
on the historical context of crime films, concentrating on the interaction of crime and
culture—as Todd suggests, “Crime films reflect the power relations of the context in
which they are made” (p. 15). Taking the reader from the silent to the modern era of
filmmaking, Todd sheds light on the social and cultural contexts in which certain
themes and styles predominated crime films. His is an insightful and enlightening history of crime films in America.
In Chapter 2, Rafter considers the criminological statements—the explanations
and causes of crime—portrayed in crime films. She identifies three general explanations of criminal behavior typically presented: (a) psychopathy or mental illness,
(b) aspirations for a better life, and (c) environmental factors. She adds that biological
explanations of criminality are not common in crime films but do occasionally occur.
Rafter discusses, in depth, a wide variety of films exemplifying the portrayal of these
criminological perspectives and phenomena, offering insightful analyses of crime
films from all time periods and genres. For many of them she provides meticulous
analysis, discussing the images and their meanings as well as the social and cultural
context in which the film’s statements were made. The extensive analysis and discussion of the films presented is one of the great strengths of this book.
Rafter reminds the reader that crime films must be understood in social and historical context, stating that “crime films tend to reflect the criminological theory or theories in vogue at the moment they are produced” (p. 48). This is an important statement,
as it highlights the amount of information about society that can be gleaned from an
analysis of popular culture media such as films. Based on this fact, Rafter concludes
the chapter with an insightful consideration of the interaction between crime films and
ideology, identifying the central ideological messages conveyed by such films. She is
careful to add that crime films, in her opinion, do not cause crime. Rather, she suggests, they reflect and project ideology by presenting narratives that help explain
crime and criminal behavior.
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Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice / February 2002
The three chapters that follow present analyses of the three major film genres that
comprise the larger category of crime films: cop films, courtroom or law films, and
prison and execution films. Through very thorough analyses, Rafter traces the evolution of each genre and places the films and their statements in the larger social and cultural context, pointing out the impact of the dominant social ideology on the common
themes. For example, in the cop films genre, the Dirty Harry pictures became widely
popular at the time when society was beginning to embrace “law and order” attitudes
toward crime (1970s). Similar patterns can be observed in the courtroom drama/law
film genre as well as prison and execution films. Importantly, Rafter discusses the
effect that such films have on the common perceptions of crime and criminal justice,
pointing out that many people gain their understanding of how the law works and what
goes on behind bars from movies.
In Chapter 6, Rafter considers the nature of heroes in crime films. In doing so, she
develops a typology of crime film heroes as: (a) sleuths, (b) victim heroes, (c) criminal
masterminds, (d) mistreated heroes, (e) outsider heroes, (f) avengers, (g) criminal
heroes, and (h) superheroes. She further discusses the types of films that tend to foster
each kind of hero and the specific messages that are portrayed with each type of hero.
Pointing to the dialectical relationship between heroes and “bad guys,” Rafter posits
that crime films tend to express value conflicts that commonly occur in our culture.
Through simple dichotomous polarities, then, crime films help viewers organize the
value conflicts that pervade their lives.
Rafter concludes in Chapter 7 with a discussion of the future of crime films. By
drawing on historical trends, she predicts the direction in which crime films are
headed: (a) that the nature of heroes will change, becoming “WHERE SHOULD ”
BE PLACED? more diverse in terms of age, race and ethnicity, gender, and sexual
preference; (b) that what is considered heroic will most likely become broader; and
(c) that a change in the subject matter covered in crime films will occur. As new social
issues arise and technology continues to expand, crime films will evolve to incorporate such new themes into their subject matter. Rafter also suggests that true crime
films will flourish and that there will be an increased emphasis on victimization. Not
surprisingly, these predictions reflect trends already manifested in the larger society
(and, it might be argued, in academia), reinforcing Rafter’s notion that crime films
tend to reflect current social and cultural ideology.
Shots in the Mirror is a thorough and lucid overview of crime films and their interaction with the social reality of crime. Through a comprehensive and thoughtful analysis of many diverse crime films, Rafter is able to demonstrate her primary thesis that
crime films reflect and construct social consciousness regarding crime. This, in itself,
is not a novel conclusion. However, this kind of analysis does represent an extremely
valuable addition to the fields of criminology and film studies. A more thorough
assessment of crime films and their relation to crime and criminal justice does not
exist. How crime films shape and reflect our understanding of crime is what this book
is about and it serves its purpose well. Moreover, this book has broad practical appeal
to criminologists. It has specific value for teachers of criminology, providing a basis
for using films as particularly potent teaching devices, as well as for researchers,
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shedding light on a valid avenue for analysis. Ultimately, it serves as an accessible and
enlightening book for any individual interested in crime, film history, or both.
REFERENCE
Sutherland, E. H. (1947). Principles of criminology (4th ed.). Philadelphia: J. B.
Lippincott.
— Scott Vollum
Sam Houston State University
Class, Race, Gender and Crime—Social Realities of Justice in America. By
Gregg Barak, Jeanne M. Flavin, and Paul S. Leighton. LOCATION?:
Roxbury, 2001, 302 pages.
Critical criminology is a paradigm that has regained strength in the past decade, and
it remains relevant today even though the economy and general atmosphere are quite
different from the 1960s. With the widening of the so-called digital divide, money
remains the crucial element in whether one can keep up with and advance in our capitalist society. Barak, Flavin, and Leighton’s latest book examines the key issues that
are the basis of critical criminology, specifically by approaching the idea of crime
from the perspectives of race, gender, and class. These three factors are explained
individually and in relation to each other, with ample statistics and narrative to clearly
illustrate the authors’ point. The primary theme of this book is that the social relations
of class, race, and gender help construct the forms of crime and justice that we have in
society, because people’s treatment within the criminal justice system is shaped by
what takes place outside the criminal justice system.
The issue of class is what stands out as the distinguishing feature of this book, given
that the issue is so seldom brought up when discussing crime. There is ample research
on issues of race and crime but there is rarely a distinction drawn between wealthy
minorities and poor minorities or between wealthy and poor Caucasians. As the
authors explain, the vast majority of crime statistics contain no information on
offender or victim income. There seems to be a hesitance to discuss issues of class
because America is viewed as a “classless” society, even though analysis of economic, political, and geographical factors illustrate otherwise. When crime data is
broken down by class and race, it is evident that one’s wealth and income play a part in
whether one will be arrested, convicted, imprisoned, or executed.
Each chapter consists of several sections that address various aspects of the issue
being discussed. There is an introductory section and also one devoted to definition of
key terms, which would be extremely important if this text were used in a lower level
criminology, criminal justice, or sociology course. Terms such as race, ethnicity, feminism, and racism are often misused, so the authors make important clarifications in
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Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice / February 2002
these and other areas. Other sections in each chapter are Economic Sphere, Political
Sphere, and Social Sphere, in which the authors elaborate on the individual topics of
race, class, and gender in relation to these arenas.
Only after establishing the definitions and frame of reference for each theme do the
authors then address the theme as it relates to criminology. This is logical because
these matters cannot be discussed intelligently without first having a comprehensive
understanding of the entire concept. For example, in the chapter on class, the authors
first examine and explain the state of income in America and the distribution of wealth
that has become increasingly lopsided. There is discussion of campaign finance, the
annual income of CEOs in relation to their employees, and Marxist commentary on
capitalism in general. In the following sections, class is discussed in relation to crime
and crime control, with special attention paid to white-collar crime. The authors offer
a practical and effective example of white-collar crime when they discuss General
Electric Corporation (GE) and the monstrous violations they have committed in the
course of their growth. The sanctions they have received, however, are miniscule,
especially when compared to penalties for street crime that has caused, at best, only a
small fraction of the harm that GE has caused. The authors elaborate on the fact that
“corporations have civil rights but no civil responsibilities” (p. 41), and how the state
itself also commits crimes against humanity that typically go unpunished.
Historical information on the state of race, class, and gender in America is presented in the book’s first chapter and briefly in each chapter to give the reader as much
background as possible and to illustrate the relativity of these concepts over time. Victimization is also discussed in each chapter, with ample quantitative data as well as
commentary and historical information. The authors then complete their comprehensive analysis of the entire criminal justice system by including sections on identification and adjudication, conviction and imprisonment, criminal justice workers, and
media representations.
There is much discussion throughout the book on the role of the media and how
they actually shape public opinion when it comes to crime. The authors stress that
there are several myths that need to be dispelled, one of which is the stereotype of all
young Black males being criminals. News programs, as well as all other movies and
television shows, have served to implant a certain discriminatory paradigm in the
minds of many Americans who have not been educated otherwise. Subsequently,
because it is often public opinion that drives political process, these stereotypes make
their way into policy, namely criminal justice policy.
The chapter on race (Chapter 3) addresses the average annual murder rate for different racial groups, illustrating that the murder rate for African Americans is almost
seven times the rate for any other group. One is left wondering why the recent suburban school shootings are seen as an epidemic whereas this phenomenon is not. The
chapter on race also contains a controversial discussion on whether African Americans are the victims of a slow genocide based on information about economic conditions, health factors, and educational opportunities. The section on media representation exposes the blatant misrepresentation of crack being sold “across the street from
the white house,” as the elder President Bush claimed during a speech about the war
on drugs. In reality, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had to lure a small-time
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drug dealer to the location in front of Bush’s residence and then filmed the transaction.
The dealer was young, Black, and male, which served to further instill that stereotype
into the minds of the American public. This is but one example used by the authors to
illustrate the perpetuation of crime myths by the media and the powerful.
Chapter 4 begins by comparing how men and women are situated in larger economic, political, and social spheres, and then gender is examined in the context of
changing criminological paradigms over time. The issue of women and crime has
been treated almost as an afterthought, much like women in sports and the workplace,
due to the male-centered nature of the criminal justice system. There is an added section in this chapter on domestic violence, specifically on why battered women do not
leave their aggressors, which offers a refreshingly realistic and informative view of
this issue. Several types of feminism are defined and explained.
Chapter 5, entitled “Intersections: Spheres of Privilege and Inequality,” discusses
the idea that individuals do not fit into any single category. Instead, they exist at the
intersection of many categories that shape their views, actions, and the way people
view them. This chapter is somewhat of a review of the previous three but it does
emphasize the “intersectionality” of categories and how they can affect our experiences in society and within the criminal justice system.
The sixth and final chapter explains that there are three separate systems of
justice—equal, restorative, and social—that are defined and discussed in relation to
the current system and future implications. There are practices that are institutionalized within the system, making them inherently difficult to change, but the authors
offer several suggestions on how to decrease selective justice and discrimination and
how to promote the ideals of social justice and better the system as a whole. These
suggestions include increasing community initiatives such as community courts,
placing a moratorium on prison building, and deescalating the “war on crime.” Advocating a war on crime or a war on drugs has disturbing implications because “talking
about crime is talking about race” (p. 127). Only by reducing harm in society as a
whole can we reduce crime and restore faith in the system.
The book is successful in explaining the standpoint that class, race, and gender, and
crime itself, are socially constructed and relative. But rather than keeping the discussion on a purely theoretical level, the authors offer numerous examples and real-world
explanations throughout the entire text. There are boxes in each chapter that bring
modern issues into play, such as the O.J. Simpson trial, hate crimes, and racial profiling. One box that would surely incite an interesting class discussion is one called,
“You know you’re privileged when?” In this section, statements are listed that aim to
show that some groups are more privileged than others and that those in the privileged
groups often fail to recognize this. An example is the yes/no statement, “I can swear,
or dress in second-hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute
these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.” Although
this statement has nothing to do with crime, the issue of privilege is enormously relevant to the way justice is carried out in different situations.
This text is obviously geared toward the in-depth study of the critical criminology
perspective, but it is written in a way that can be understood and easily read by undergraduate students. There is ample discussion of economics and sociological factors
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Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice / February 2002
that makes this book appropriate for a sociology or social problems course, even one
not dealing directly with crime.
— Samantha Gwinn
San Diego State University
Elite Deviance. By David R. Simon. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1999, 383
pages.
David R. Simon’s Elite Deviance is a very interesting and well-written book that
examines the harmful acts committed by elites (i.e., persons from the highest levels of
society—members of the upper and upper-middle classes). Such acts of great harm
include crimes against consumers, environmental crime, crimes by the government,
and corruption of public officials. This book presents an account of the circumstances
in which these harmful acts take place.
Simon reveals that the deviant acts of members of the upper and upper-middle
classes are not random events. He indicates that such deviance has some of the following essential attributes: (a) it happens because it furthers the continuance or increase
of profit and/or power, (b) it is performed with the support of the elites who are in
charge of the economic and political organizations, and (c) it may be carried out by
elites and/or employees acting on their behalf.
Elite Deviance examines an institutionalized set of deviant practices by persons
from the highest strata of society that are international. The book points out these persons’ collaboration with global crime syndicates involved in the $850 billion global
narcotics trade and the vast amount of money laundered by legitimate financial institutions, lawyers, and other elite professionals.
Simon discusses the present-day characteristics of corporate crime that include
antitrust, advertising law, and pollution law violations. The author reveals that corporate crime costs American consumers an estimated $261 billion a year, and hundreds
of thousands of lives are taken by corporate crime. He indicates that corporate crime is
one of the world’s most serious social problems.
Elite Deviance explains that in a market economy, “Private businesses make decisions based on making profit” and, as a result, place “the environment in jeopardy”
(p. 155). Moreover, the book makes it clear that “pollution is a direct consequence of
an economic system in which the profit motive supersedes the concern for the environment” (p. 157).
Simon examines international arms smuggling and the global dumping of toxic
wastes by big businesses. The author also investigates human rights violations by governments in other countries receiving U.S. foreign and military aid.
Elite Deviance discusses crimes perpetuated by the U.S. government against the
people. The book catalogues the secrecy and deception used by government officials
to manipulate public opinion and the abuse of power by government officials and
agencies. It also examines police brutality and the use of citizens as unwilling guinea
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pigs by the American government. Simon’s text also investigates crimes by governments from different countries on a global level (such as clandestine intervention and
war crimes).
The author points out that harmful acts committed by persons from the upper and
upper-middle classes hold many negative consequences for society. These consequences include high prices, dangerous products, and the increased motivation to
commit harmful acts on the part of the working and lower classes.
The main theme of this book is that the source of elite deviance is the structure of
society. This work suggests that the market economy must be changed so that people
rather than profits are supreme. It proposes a development of economic democracy
(i.e., the direct control and management of the businesses and social services by the
workers through democratic means).
I strongly recommend Simon’s book for anyone interested in criminology, especially peacemaking criminology (a humanistic and scientific approach to the study of
crime). Elite Deviance is an excellent book that provides the reader with an impressive and comprehensive treatment on the subject of harmful acts committed by elites.
— Louis Gesualdi
St. John’s University
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