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Conclusion: Criminal Justice or Criminal Justice

Reiman wraps up his argument with the assertion that a criminal justice system is a just system only if it equally protects the interests and rights of all and that is equally punishes all who violate these rights or endanger these interests.  When it does not, the system is criminal; the biased use of coercive power - police, courts, prisons - is violence.  Reiman argues that the criminal justice system violates its own morally justifying ideas of equal protection and fairness.  This chapter points out several strategies that must be put in place if our system is to fulfill the goals of protecting society and promoting justice.


Internet Resources

Protecting Society

Reiman argues that in a modern free enterprise society poverty brings with it conditions that breed crime.  In order to put an end to crime producing poverty he suggests (among other things)

  • Providing high quality education
  • Investing in inner cities
  • Job training



Read Elliott Currie's Crime & Punishment in America

Let the crime fit the harm and the punishment fit the crime.  Reiman is arguing that we must treat all harmful acts in proportion to the actual harm they produce without respect to the class of the criminal.  Reiman suggests

  • Corporations identify, in advance, the individuals responsible for specific acts
  • Criminalizing acts of the wealthy
  • Decriminalizing victimless crimes such as prostitution, gambling and vagrancy

Getting Tough on Corporate Crime? Enron and a Year of Corporate Financial Scandals by Jeffrey Reiman and Paul Leighton

Corporate Accountability Project

Elite Deviance & It's Control

Legalize the production and sale of illicit drugs and treat addiction as a medical problem.  Reiman argues that dealers charge high prices because the drug is illegal and they are taking a risk.  In order to pay the high prices addicts resort to crime.  The point is, if harmless drugs such as marijuana were legal, we would have less people under the control of the criminal justice system increasing their chances of employment.

Reiman realizes that any reasonable plan of decriminalization must draw the line somewhere.  It is not reasonable to legalize all drugs, particularly those that are extremely addictive. However, the addictions must be treated as medical problems and the addicted must be treated as patients rather than criminals. 

The drug legalization debate from Criminal Justice Ethics

Correctional programs must promote personal responsibility and offer ex-offenders real preparation and a real opportunity to succeed as law-abiding citizens.  Reiman argues that the current prison system promotes rather than reduces crime. Reiman suggests we must

  • Train offenders at a marketable skill

  • Assure them the right to equally compete for jobs after release

  • Utilize the time of punishment in such a way that promotes personal responsibility

Stop Prison Rape

Prison Activist Resource Center

Enact and enforce strict gun control laws.  Reiman argues that the easy access to guns is a constant temptation and may escalate conflict to fatal levels.

Hand gun control

Promoting Justice

In order for the criminal justice system to fulfill the goal of promoting justice Reiman suggests that in addition to ending poverty we must reduce the discretionary powers available to police officers, prosecutors and judges in addition to holding them accountable for the fairness and reasonableness of their decisions.  To achieve this Reiman suggests

  • Eliminating the practice of multiple charging in order to coax a plea bargain

  • Setting specific sentence and charging guidelines

  • Require judges and prosecutors to justify their decisions in writing

As demonstrated in previous chapters, the ability to obtain effective legal counsel is paramount in whether a defendant is ever charged or convicted let alone sentenced.  Therefore, Reiman argues that the equal right to counsel must be expanded to the right to equal counsel.  In an effort to achieve this Reiman suggests: 

  • Establishing a national form of legal insurance enabling all individuals to hire private attorneys

Reiman concludes with the assertion that a just system cannot hold individuals guilty of the injustice of breaking the law if that law itself supports and defends an unjust social order.  Therefore we must establish a just distribution of wealth and income making equal opportunity a reality.

Restorative Justice

Faith-Based Resources

Crime Victims for A Just Society

Leighton & Reiman, Criminal Justice Ethics

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