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Christian Parenti

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Crime As Social Control

Parenti attempts to offer a radical reading of crime. The discussion of crime control has been so poisonous and monopolized by the Right as to taint any contemplation of a left response to crime. By crime, the author mostly means the “index offenses” or interpersonal violence, such as murder, rape, and assault, along with noncorporate theft like burglary and strong-arm robbery. In addition, we can include the violence associated with addiction and street-level narcocapitalism. A realistic (not realist) approach to crime from the Left must take into account that imprisonment causes crime and thus argue against the overuse of incarceration. Community power and empowerment are at the heart of any real anticrime agenda. Thus, the pro-peace culture emerging among urban youth of color should be embraced not just as a marketable, hip niche for nonprofits to embrace, but as an example of anticrime measures rooted in popular power. Likewise, police accountability should be constructed not simply as a human rights issue, but as an anticrime issue. Police will be effective at deactivating and preventing violence when they are accountable, and that will only happen when they are subject to the sorts of radically democratic structures of community control that were proposed in the 1970s in the Bay Area and other regions.

crime, criminals; social control; drug trade; police

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 27, No. 3 (2000): 43-49