1st Edition

Crime, Inequality and Power

ISBN 9781138820562
Published April 22, 2015 by Routledge
394 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations

USD $61.95

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Book Description

Crime, Inequality and Power challenges the dominant definitions of crime and the criminal through its uniquely comparative approach. In this book Eileen Leonard analyzes multiple forms of criminal behavior in the United States, including violence, sexual assault, theft, and drug law violations, whilst also asking readers to consider the parallels between crimes that are rarely thought comparable. Leonard’s juxtaposition of familiar street crimes, such as car theft, alongside large-scale corporate theft, vividly exposes profound inequalities in the way crime is defined, and the treatment it receives within the criminal justice system.

Leonard’s analysis also reveals the underlying inequalities of race, class, and gender which enable the perpetuation of such crimes, as well as calling into question the reality of fundamental American ideals of fairness and equal justice. Moreover, the book questions whether current policies that punish street crime excessively while minimizing the crimes of the powerful, fail to keep the public safe. A broader consideration of crime, and the inequalities that underlie it, offers a fresh opportunity to rethink public policies and enduring issues of crime and criminal justice.

Challenging the many persistent inequalities in the perception of and response to crime, this critique of American crime and punishment will be of interest to undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as scholars, in the fields of criminology, sociology and law.

Table of Contents

Introduction  1. The Social Construction of Crime  2.Murder and Assault: Comparing Street crime and Elite Crime  3. The Case of Rape: Perpetrators as Strangers or Significant Others  4. Theft by the Rich and Poor  5. Drug Violations: From Street Corners to Pharmaceutical Headquarters  6. Crimes Against the State and Crimes By the State  7. Punishing Crime  8. Public Policies for a Safer Society.

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Eileen B. Leonard is Professor of Sociology at Vassar College, and she teaches a yearly course at Taconic Correctional Facility for Women. Her teaching and research focus on crime, gender, inequality, and social theory. Eileen has chaired the Sociology Department at Vassar College, and been Director of the Women’s Studies Program and the American Studies Program. She is currently Director of Faculty Teaching Development at Vassar.


‘Eileen B. Leonard succeeds wonderfully well in imposing a highly effective framework on how we should understand the concept of crime, and how we can best respond to the problem of crime. She documents persuasively the societal overreaction to crimes of the powerless and the societal under-reaction to crimes of the powerful. Students and their professors alike have much to learn from this book.’ - David O. Friedrichs, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of Scranton, USA

Crime, Inequality, and Power offers a timely, thoughtful, and much-needed comparative perspective on the problem of crime and the construction of the offender. As Leonard systematically demonstrates, based on a wide range of clearly presented examples, crime in the streets AND crime in the suites make and manufacture definitions about the criminal enterprise. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the present-day status of inequality within the criminal justice system.’ - Bruce Arrigo, Professor of Criminology, Law and Society and of Public Policy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, USA

‘In Crime, Inequality and Power, Leonard offers a powerful critique of our current system of justice and the underlying socially constructed biases that continue to focus upon specific types of criminal behavior, while minimizing others. Central to her thesis is that "…power and persistent inequality in America has more to do with our understanding of crime and our punishment of it, rather than the harm that behavior inflicts". Crime, Inequality and Power is an important addition to the discipline of criminology and an essential read for students, policymakers and scholars interested in this complex topic.’David Polizzi, PhD, M.A., M.A., LCAC, Associate Professor, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Indiana State University, USA

'Crime, Inequality and Power provides an excellent overview of the topics, which will be particuarly valuable to students... The book takes a broad approach to unpicking the ways in which crime and punishment are an expression of, and a means of maintaining power and inequality.' Dr. Jamie Bennett, Prison Service Journal