“The disproportionate prosecution of working class criminals ultimately serves to maintain ruling-class power and to reinforce ruling class ideology—thus performing ‘ideological functions’ for the ruling class.”
Orson Rogers considers potential flaws in the way that Trinidad and Tobago deals with crime:
As an armchair crime watcher and based on considerable research/ readings on crime, conclusions may be summarised into four key points:
- This society encourages criminal behaviour—that is it is crimogenic;
- The Law is made by the elite of this society and tends to work in their interests;
- All classes, not just the working classes commit crime, and the crimes of the elite class are costlier than street crime;
- The state practices Selective Law Enforcement. The Criminal Justice system mainly concerns itself with policing and punishing the marginalised, not the wealthy, and this performs ideological functions for the elite classes.
This society can be said to be crimogenic in three major ways:
- This society encourages individuals to pursue self-interest rather than public duty;
- This society encourages individuals to be materialistic consumers, making us aspire to an unrealistic and often unattainable lifestyle;
- This society generates massive inequality and poverty, conditions which are correlated with higher crime rates.
Now for the surprise! If you agree with the above, you are agreeing with the Marxist perspective on crime.
And do we have selective law enforcement?
It is a persuasive argument that the police mainly focus on policing working class—and underclass—areas and the justice system mainly focuses on prosecuting working and underclass criminals. By and large, the system ignores the crimes of the elite and the middle classes, although both of these classes are just as likely to commit crime as the working classes.
The disproportionate prosecution of working class criminals ultimately serves to maintain ruling-class power and to reinforce ruling class ideology—thus performing ‘ideological functions’ for the ruling class.
According to Marxism, ‘selective law enforcement’ benefits the Capitalist system in three major ways:
- By punishing individuals and making them responsible for their actions, defining these individuals as ‘social failures’ and we ignore the failings of the system that lead to the conditions of inequality and poverty that create the conditions which lead to crime.
- The imprisonment of selected members of the lower classes neutralises opposition to the system.
- The imprisonment of many members of the underclass also sweeps out of sight the ‘worst jetsam of Capitalist society’ such that we cannot see it.
In Trinbago we may also add a fourth benefit—that all of the police, court and media focus on working class street crime means that our attention is diverted away from the immorality and greed of the elite classes.
So maybe as Trinbagonians we should be looking at a different system to solve our problems. Ah jes talking out loud!