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Anita Kalunta-Crumpton

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The Criminalization of “Black Deprivation” in the United Kingdom

Anita Kalunta-Crumpton’s article is a case study of drug offense trials in a London Crown Court. It sheds light on the intersection of race, class, and crime. Academic and public debates on crime overwhelmingly focus on lower-class criminality, and thus on the implications of socioeconomic deprivation. The evidence in this study suggests that race predominated over class in these prosecutions, with disparate handling of socioeconomic circumstances occurring in similar cases concerning black and white defendants. Since black people experience higher levels of deprivation, criminal justice officials indiscriminately categorize them as potential criminals, a practice that extends to middle-class blacks. Using deprivation as logical evidence of “black criminality” undermines a crucial fact: drug trafficking is a lucrative illicit business that attracts people from various groups and classes. Indeed, black people in the drug economy occupy the lower levels of the distribution chain while white people are located at the top end as suppliers and distributors, with access to the lucrative parts of the drug market. In effect, attention is diverted from influential categories that dominate the drug trafficking business, and official arrest and conviction statistics feed back into already biased academic discourses, ignoring white-collar crime and crimes of the powerful.

social control; drug prosecutions — race, class in; crime and criminals; criminal justice — Great Britain; drug abuse — Great Britain; Great Britain — blacks — social conditions; racism

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 27, No. 1 (2000): 76-100