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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Category: Guest Blogs

Craigslist: A Hub for Crime?

Nickie Phillips

Danielle Reynolds, Correspondent


For those searching for employment, housing, friendship or products and services, the Craigslist community can be extremely useful. Millions of visitors view billions of ads each month, with the majority of users having pure intentions. During the summer of 2011 I attempted to use New York City Craigslist to find a long-term sublet apartment and to my surprise found many interesting, yet unsuitable ads under the category “Rooms & Shares.” Some ads promised negotiated or complimentary rent for “favors,” while others outright asked for a live-in “naked girlfriend.” After reading many questionable and unreliable ads, I decided to delve further into the Craigslist world to uncover if Craigslist was indeed a hub for dubious activities.

Unfortunately Craigslist is vulnerable to abuse by a minority of its users, manipulating the site as a fast and free network to others whom they plan to physically and/or financially exploit. Often the perpetrators construct false identities to initiate crime, by developing a sense of trust among Craigslist contacts prior to committing the criminal act. Various criminal acts, such as murder, prostitution, drug and weapon sales and rape, among various other scams, have been initiated or conducted via Craigslist.

Miranda Barbour and husband Elytte Barbour were accused of using a Craigslist ad for “companionship” to lure Troy LaFerrara and stabbing him 20 times, then strangling and killing him, discarding the body approximately 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Miranda claimed that she used Craigslist to meet “unhappy men” and charge as much as $850 for a “delightful conversation.” During an interview with CNN reporter Francis Scarcella, Barbour admitted to almost 100 killings over a 6 year period, occurring in Alaska, Texas, North Carolina and California. In Ohio, Richard Beasley was convicted for killing 3 men who responded to a Craigslist ad for work on a cattle farm.

The most notorious Craigslist murder, however, refers to Philip Markoff, known as the “Craigslist Killer,” which inspired the 2011 Lifetime movie. The movie, based on true events, tells of a pre-med student who found his victims through Craigslist ads for erotic services, then attacking and/or murdering them upon meeting with them in a motel room. Markoff was arraigned on murder charges related to the death of Julissa Brisman (2009) and was charged with two armed assaults of Trisha Leffler and Corinne Stout.

craig killers

In 2011, Californian Michael Delgado was arrested for raping a woman who he had hired from Craigslist to clean his apartment. Once within the home, Delgado sexually assaulted and raped the woman for over an hour. He was charged with false imprisonment, assault and rape with a foreign object.

In 2009, Michael John Anderson was convicted of killing Katherine Ann Olson, a nanny who replied to a Craigslist ad for a babysitter. Upon arriving to the Anderson’s home to inquire about an employment opportunity, she disappeared.

Prostitution has made good use of cyberspace, including sites such as Craigslist. Traffic to all Craigslist personal sites, including a section for romance or “missed connections,” is higher than for any online personals sites including, eHarmony, among others. “Casual Encounters” section of Craigslist has become a major hub, amassing listings with offerings for casual sex, perhaps catering to the erotic underbelly of society where courtship gives way to expediency and anonymity. Created in 2000, ads posted in this section range from prim to vulgar and often providing photographs with precisely what individuals have to offer. Founder of “Casual Encounters,” Craig Newmark, stated that the section was created in response to a demand for a division that allowed for a wide range of personal meetings and relationship options.

On September 8, 2006, “Casual Encounters” forums had been compromised in several cities by individuals posting fraudulent ads in order to obtain personal information from its users, such as email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses, photos, etc. This was the first time the section had been threatened by various prostitutes and spammers to seize and control the community. Then in 2007 a Minneapolis woman pleaded guilty in federal court for running an underage prostitution ring through Craigslist. Craigslist has become a favorite for prostitutes as it is relaxed, allows people to be more candid and anonymous, and has a lack of oversight. Although Craigslist policy prohibits pornographic photos, it is not vigorously enforced. “Casual Encounters” accounts for approximately 2% of all Craigslist postings, and since its creation it has quickly evolved to fulfill a variety of suggestive quests as it delivers erotic thrills for minimal effort.

Craigslist, although a hub for illegal activity, has also been used to combat that activity as law enforcement targets criminal users in sting operations, catching prostitutes using the site to sell their services. In Long Island, eight women were arrested on prostitution charges in a sting operation by the Nassau County Police Department who have used Craigslist to make over 70 arrests in 2013. As technology expands, the traditional sense of looking for street walkers, brothels and massage parlors has transitioned to scouring Craigslist ads and various pages on cyberspace. In July 2013 Nassau County Police Department arrested 43 women for walking the streets soliciting prostitution and 60 on Craigslist pages soliciting online.


Danielle Reynolds, Crimcast contributor, teaches Criminal Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Danielle earned her Master’s degree in Criminal Justice in 2011 from John Jay College where she was awarded the Claude Hawley Medal and Graduate Scholarship. She currently lives in New York City.

What the U.S. Should Learn From the Norwegian Prison System

Nickie Phillips


Valeriy Kipelov, Guest Blogger

Having realized that prison trends are pretty sad in the U.S. (mass incarceration), I tried to find an answer to this question: Is there a country in the world that deals with criminal offenders more efficiently than the U.S.? The answer popped up quickly. That country is Norway, and here is my reasoning.

Norway is a rich, highly developed democracy. It has a wide range of natural resources, a huge territory for quite small population of just five million people, and – most importantly – it has rich human capital and a strong respect for law and public order. That order to a great extent is reflected in something quite unique to Scandinavian countries, their approach to prisons. Just read what one Norwegian prison official said during an interview: We don't look at our inmates as criminals,but rather as regular people who have committed a crime. This idea of treating inmates as regular citizens who must (with professional help of the governmental institution) be rehabilitated and eventually brought back into normal society, is in my opinion very simple, yet amazing. Such a philosophy is actually the key to this country’s unbelievable rehabilitative successes.

norwegian flag

In Western countries deprivation of freedom was once believed to be the harshest way to punish criminals. So, deprivation of freedom is already itself a punishment and the main idea thereof: locking offenders up, so that they have a certain amount of time to reflect, to fully realize the gravity and negative effect of their actions. Aggravating the deprivation of freedom with collateral hardships, which are by the way not necessarily legal or moral, is not only unjust, but also counterproductive. The goal of a well-functioning society is to manage crime rates and keep them low by promoting and running effective criminal justice systems. This is exactly what the Norwegian authorities have been able to do during the last few decades, and what we, the United States, are so far not capable of doing.

Look at some self-explanatory statistics: The incarceration ratio per 100,000 is 72 in Norway and 716 in the US. So, we are at the number one in the world in terms of incarceration rate, whereas they, the Norwegians, are at number 176; Murder rates -- 0.6 murder cases per 100,000 citizens in Norway, 5 per 10,000 in the U.S. Finally, the most self explanatory piece of data – the recidivism rates; 68% in the U.S., 20% in Norway.

Now that it is evident that one country is much more successful in deterring recidivism than the other – how is it possible in practice?  A Norwegian criminologist Nils Christie introduced his own theory that states that every offender deserves "re-socialization.” In Norwegian state prisons such as, for example Bastoy or Halden, they try to re-socialize the inmates through forestry work, gardening, and taking care of the animals. This type of work is believed to have the most pacifying and rehabilitating effect.

Norwegian criminologist Nils Christie (Photo:

An interesting fact: all Norwegian corrections officers work without weapons, which would probably sound crazy for an American correctional officer. The reason is that weapons create the atmosphere of hostility and aggression that guns normally imply. And one of the main tenets of Norwegian penitentiary system is the like-home environment inside the prison, which has proven to be effective in reforming the inmates. You probably remember the most famous Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik who killed 77 people a couple of years ago. That guy, despite the atrocity that he committed, is not rotting in some dungeon. He enjoys himself in Halden prison, where he has a cozy room (instead of a dirty cell), tasty whole food, world-class healthcare, all sorts of amenities including the Internet and television, plenty of free time and even the possibility to earn another higher education degree.

Shocking? Halden’s wardens say they don’t see anything unusual about this approach. The formula of Norwegian success seems clear: you treat inmates as regular people, promote and create a culture of respect within all prisons – and you have less inmates re-entering the system; you treat them harshly, in an inhuman way and without providing for their basic (or even – advanced) needs, allowing violence in the cells and in prison yards – you get more hardened criminals full of hatred, who will never ever return to normal life, and will most likely come back to the lockup again and again.

Different countries highlight different goals of punishment. Norway, as we now clearly see – puts rehabilitation at the top, and this concept pays off exceedingly. I truly believe that the U.S. needs to seriously consider adopting the Norwegian prison model. Our prison population keeps growing. We build more and more correctional institutions and promote the culture of control-- and it has to be reversed.

At the same time I fully realize how much must happen before American society shifts its point of view and accepts such a radical and liberal policy transfer. The cultural differences are huge. The U.S. is a highly diverse, multicultural nation, while about 86% of Norway citizens are ethnic Norwegian, which makes it a much more homogeneous state than the US. It is surely much harder for the American people of wide variety of cultural/ethnic backgrounds to reach some consensus; we don’t have anything remotely liberal in our prison system, while they, Norwegians, have had such a modus operandi for decades.

The U.S. could technically afford liberalizing by decriminalizing certain petty offenses, incarcerating less people, and directing the saved funds to rehabilitating purposes, similar to the Norwegian approach. But this would require clear realization of such necessity and sincere political will. You bet: building golf fields for rapists would not be the best line in a politician’s election campaign. So, the shift in our mindset would require the public will and a lot of political and educational work. Incarcerating more offenders means killing the symptoms of the social disease; rehabilitating the offenders and cutting the recidivism rate means curing that disease. And we need to make the right choice when reforming our prison system.


Valeriy Kipelov was born in Debrecen, Hungary, and raised in Kiev, Ukraine. He lived in Germany for a year and earned a BA in Linguistics (English, German, Ukrainian) from Kiev National Linguistic University.  He also has a BA in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  Currently, he is in the MA Program in International Crime and Justice at John Jay College. He has worked as a news anchor/reporter for RTVi, a Russian television station in NYC. Kipelov is pursuing a career in U.S. law enforcement. 

When Security Decision-Making Becomes Estranged from Actuality

Nickie Phillips


Part 2 of 5 in a series on Risk-Logic and the War on Terror

Aditi Gupta, Guest Blogger

In my previous post, I outlined the four dynamics set in motion when we think of security threats through the prism of risk-logic. This post will zoom in on the first dynamic, ‘decoupling political decision-making from actuality’ and show how this frame of thinking has a profoundly social effect on our everyday lives and the way we recognize and engage with the threat of terrorism.

You may be thinking at this point – what does this have to do with me? It’s the government’s prerogative to protect us, and they call the shots – not me. In order to illustrate how the infiltration of risk-logic in security practices not only affects us, but changes the way we conduct our lives, I am going to demonstrate how power relations at the ground level as well as the governmental level are affected. I will do this by looking at the work of United Kingdom-based human rights organizations who try to combat the curtailment of freedoms post-9/11, as they engage with the general public as well as governmental authorities. This will be based on interviews with Amnesty International UK (AIUK), Reprieve, CagePrisoners, and Liberty.

The utility of viewing risk-based governance in terms of power relations:


It’s useful to view the impact of risk-logic in security practices through the lens of Foucault’s governmentality thesis, whereby power is seen as a circulatory phenomenon rather than something that is ‘held’ by any one entity (Foucault 1990: 91). In other words, power relations are as important at a governmental (macro) level, as they are at the grassroots (micro) level. Foucault defines modes, or assemblages of governance as a ‘dispositif’ of governance. This consists of rationalities (ways, or frames for thinking about policy) and technologies (tools, practices and policies that are used in governing) of governance that encompass the efforts of those in power to account for ‘the authority of their authority’ (Aradau and Van Munster, 2007:15).

This governmental attempt to justify their right to power is done through discourses of knowledge which are in turn facilitated through everyday social practices enacted by ordinary people. Through this Foucauldian framework it is possible to see the role of human rights organizations’ resistance to risk-based counter-terror policy in what Foucault calls ‘the battle for truth’. This is not a battle for an absolute truth, but ultimately about the rules that dictate how true and false are separated (Rabinow 1984:74). It is through this lens that we can see how Selchow’s four dynamics are central to the constant negotiation of the dynamics of power that circulate the Foucauldian ‘regime of truth’ that makes up governance.

Burchell (1991:144) suggests that modern politics is characterized by an oscillation between a ‘suspicious fear’ of state intervention in our lives, and a ‘demand that the government will respect our rights whilst taking responsibility… for sheltering us from insecurities and dangers’. It is in this space that the social impact of risk-logic can be clearly seen, between those who suspect the government of over-reaching their power and those who believe it is protecting them, thus participating in risk-based security practices.

It is in this space that we can locate and examine the resistance carried out by UK human rights organizations to counter-terror policies, thus illustrating the very real impact that risk-based security policy has on our everyday lives.

Zooming in on the first dynamic: the decoupling of political decision-making from actuality

The Foucauldian dispositif of government (or mode of governance) we are seeing post-9/11 is one that Aradau and Van Munster describe as the ‘dispositif of precautionary risk’ (DPR), as opposed to previous forms of risk-governance. While previous dispositifs of risk centred on identifying, preventing and containing existing threats, this new DPR instead seeks to pre-empt risks through active engagement of the population, thus setting in motion Selchow’s four dynamics.

Selchow’s first dynamic, ‘the decoupling of political decision-making from actuality’ - that is engendered by the DPR - thus echoes this new dispositif post-9/11. This can be seen clearly in the U.K. through the Police National Legal database’s (PNLD 2009:85) assertion that ‘given the current level of threat from international terrorism’, there is a need to apprehend those suspected of terrorism ‘prior to gathering sufficient evidence to secure a conviction’.

The DPR is driven by four inter-linked rationalities that fundamentally change the relationship between state and society by allowing new technologies to be deployed and justified as part of the fight against terror: the notion that any level of risk is unacceptable (i.e. zero risk), constant worst-case-scenario-thinking, the belief of serious and irreversible damage posed by terrorism, and the shifting of the burden of proof from state to society as a whole (Aradau and Van Munster, 2008). In this way, the ideal of total security has replaced the desire for peace, driving a politics that assumes the terrorist ‘other’ unquestionably responsible for irreparable damage.

From 2000-2006, five new terrorism acts were introduced which encompassed the expansion of powers that constituted ‘alternative non-prosecution actions to protect the public’ (PNLD 2009:85) such as 28 day pre-charge detention, stop and search powers, indefinite detention of ‘suspected international terrorists’, control orders and new offenses such as ‘glorification of terrorism’.  From 2007, counter-terrorism powers were effectively normalized. New offices, official national security strategies, and laws such as the Counter-Terror Act 2008 and the introduction of TPIMs ensured that exceptional measures were institutionalized. The expansion of counter-terror powers from temporary emergency legislation to permanent fixtures that institutionalize the decoupling of decision-making from the grounds of actuality in ‘daily security practice’ clearly illustrates how the DPR has set in motion the decoupling of action from actuality in the U.K.

Pre-emptive domestic security practices can be seen to be justified by an emotive narrative of national security that is extremely hard to counter-act. This is epitomized in the militarization of domestic policing in the U.K. which led to the shooting of Charles De Menezes as part of the new ‘shoot to kill’ policy operationalized after the 7/7 attacks in London. Similarly, 250 police officers stormed a house in Forest Gate in search of chemical weapons, shooting one man and detaining two for eight days – both men were later released without charge (Mythen and Walklate 2008:235).

Charles De Menzes: Mistaken for a suicide bomber and shot by police (Photo credit: BBC News)

These pre-emptive domestic practices are echoed in the violent complicity of the U.K. in the global intelligence network driving the pre-emptory abduction, rendition and torture of terror suspects; once one assumes a projective ‘what if?’ position, presumption of innocence metamorphoses into a presumption of guilt. The engendering of the decoupling of action from actuality is made undoubtedly clear by the recalibration of justice to allow for the pre-emptive measures to be issued purely on suspicion of future conduct; it is no longer necessary to carry out terrorist activity, suspicion of intent is enough. This dynamic thus echoes the DPR rationality of shifting the burden of proof: As Bonner (2007:34) outlines, post-9/11, suspects are effectively presumed guilty until proved otherwise. This is clear by Iain Blair’s assertions that whilst IRA terrorists were presumed innocent until proved guilty, the ‘unparalleled’ (in Bonner 2007:7) threat of today’s terrorist is seen as too dangerous to allow that privilege.

The DPR thus illuminates both the top-down discursive construction of the terrorist threat, and the efforts of the state to (re)establish a mandate for control; worst-case scenario-thinking drives more extreme measures that loop back and reinforce an expansive culture of fear, garnering support for pre-emptory practices that are based merely on suspicion of intent rather than any actual event. For example, the government reaction to the Forest Gate shooting reinforced the rationalities of the DPR: "You can only imagine if they fail to take action and something terrible happened what outcry would be then, so they are in an impossible situation" (BBC, 2006). The rationalities of zero-risk, the risk of catastrophic damage and worst-case-scenario-thinking drive a scare-mongering narrative that ultimately legitimizes the rationality of shifting the burden of proof from the state to the individual.

The difficulty to counter-act this emotional narrative of pre-emptive security policy is compounded by the fact that policy-making is seen by HROs as not malicious, but genuinely based on the desire to protect the public due to their duty to try to control the terrorist threat, or at least instill confidence in their authority by presenting the threat as ‘under control’. AIUK explained in an interview that the government ‘often had good grounds for having concerns’, and ‘we would be in a difficult position if we didn’t acknowledge that’, thus undermining attempts to state that a pre-emptive stance is detrimental to society. AIUK explained that the emotions surrounding the issue of protecting citizens allow for pre-emptive action on ‘extreme’ individuals. However, as Reprieve pointed out, just the mere suspicion of terrorist activity or association makes it very difficult to ‘advocate for them in the court of public opinion’ – ‘they’re scarecrows’. Representatives from Liberty and AIUK make clear that the government holds ‘all the cards’ in the form of national security intelligence access to state secrets. As AIUK illustrates, ‘the state can stand up and say we have seen how many bad guys there are…how many plots’. Both Liberty and AIUK point to this dynamic as a huge challenge to combat using human rights framework as the response is always boiled down to ‘we can do it now because the risk is so much greater than it has ever been’ (AIUK interview).

The main impact of the decoupling of political decision-making from actuality on the power of HROs is thus encapsulated in the future temporality of all decision-making. When there is no official offense or action that is being addressed through the application of a TPIM or by the rendition of a suspect – it is increasingly difficult to make people understand the difference between people who are merely suspected, and those who have actually committed a crime. CagePrisoners and AIUK argue that the very act of pre-emptory arrest, or the issue of TPIM leads the public to believe that they must be guilty of something – thus hindering HRO resistance to these measures. The onus of guilt placed on terror suspects by the decoupling of action from actuality is clearly seen in HRO advocacy for Shaker Aamer, the last British detainee in Guantanamo Bay. Aamer has never been charged with any crime, however the paralysis of this dynamic has rendered the writ of habeas corpus 'functionally useless’ due to the risk posed by his status as a terror suspect: what if?

This dynamic has taken a sinister turn domestically within the U.K. as CagePrisoners points out that doctors and university professors are now recommended to report those ‘vulnerable to extremism’ (Travis, 2011). This means that more and more public institutions where people interact are being drawn into the worst-case-scenario-thinking that rationalizes the DPR, feeding into a culture of fear that legitimates the creep towards the curtailment of rights to a fair trial, privacy, asylum and free movement because of fear of terrorism.

Aditi Gupta

Aditi Gupta graduated with an MSc in Global Politics (Civil Society) from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Autumn 2013.  She has previously worked at Soul Rebel Films and Reprieve and has co-authored reports based on depth interviews conducted for the Indian development NGO, CHIRAG. Aditi has volunteered for refugee and homelessorganizations in the UK and is developing a career in the human rights field. This is the second in her five-part series on Crimcast which began in early January, 2014.

Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam: Interpersonal Violence, War, Guns, and Green Criminology

Nickie Phillips

By El Mariachi 94 [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest Post by Gennifer Furst, Associate Professor, William Paterson UniversityAs Pearl Jam releases its tenth studio album and celebrates the 23rd anniversary of its first performance, the band’s lead singer, Eddie Vedder and the four other band members (along with musician Boom Gaspar) are making headlines speaking out about criminological themes. From their beginning, Eddie and the guys have never shied away from issues of social justice. In fact, through the band’s Vitalogy Foundation, named after their third album released in 1994, they support the work of non-profit organizations in fields such as community health, the environment, and social change. Two dollars of every ticket they sell goes to the Vitalogy Foundation.

The Early Years

Much has been written about Eddie Vedder’s political commentary delivered during his performances from progressive issues on abortion to anti-war sentiments. Back in March 1992 during the band’s appearance on MTV’s Unplugged Vedder stood up during the performance of “Alive” and wrote “pro-choice” on his arm with a bold black Sharpie marker. The following month, during an appearance on Saturday Night Live, he wore a homemade t-shirt with an image of a hanger  on the front and “No Bush ‘92” written on the back. During the same performance, he changed the lyrics of “Porch”--a song some believe apolitical--to include a message about women’s right to choose. The band also address abusive relationships on one of their band's best known anthems, "Better Man" from 1994's Vitalogy.

The band was an early voice in today’s anti-bullying movement. The lyrics and video for “Jeremy,” one of the band’s most well-known songs from their breakthrough album Ten, brought attention to the issue years before Columbine, often regarded as the school shooting event that started the conversation. More than two decades later the issue of guns and mass killings in schools would again become an issue Vedder prioritized.

Touring During War Time

In addition to their activism on domestic social justice issues, Pearl Jam’s attention to the wars in the Middle East has been on-going. The song “Bu$hleaguer” on 2002’s Riot Act was a clear criticism of George W. Bush’s blatant deception and manipulation of the American public into supporting an unjust war:

A confidence man, but why so beleaguered?

He's not a leader, he's a Texas leaguer

Swinging for the fence, got lucky with a strike

The lyrics are explicit in their denunciation of the Bush administration and their actions. The bush, or minor leagues, is a reference to Bush as inept and unqualified to lead, and as someone who lucked into a position in the major leagues – that of President. Released during the buildup to the Iraq war, and touring during the initial stages of the Iraq invasion, the band experienced the wrath of those unwilling to question authority. For example, Vedder was accused of “impaling” the President

By conguita [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

when during their summer tour in 2003 he appeared on stage wearing a Bush mask. In order to be able to sing, he removed the mask and hung it on the microphone stand. Contingents of concert-goers booed at the gesture. However, the backlash never proved to be as damaging as the reaction to the Dixie Chicks who disbanded shortly after Natalie Maines expressed her dismay at being from the same state as Bush.

Then, as now, Vedder argues his disdain for the wars is rooted in support for the troops. He expresses concern for the victims – the soldiers and the families who have lost loved ones to an unjust war. In addition to meeting veterans and welcoming their stories, during performances he often acknowledges the veterans present. At a concert in Colorado that kicked off their summer 2003 tour (and where the Bush mask made its U.S. debut, having been used in Australia and Japan) Vedder declared,

Just to clarify... we support the troops.…We're just confused on how wanting to bring them back safely all of a sudden becomes non-support….We love them. They're not the ones who make the foreign policy. Let's hope for the best and speak our opinions.

The anti-war message reappeared in 2006 in “World Wide Suicide,” another cut from their self-titled album Pearl Jam (also known as the Avocado Album) that criticized the war and the country’s foreign policy. Quoted in Newsweek Vedder speaks out against the military industrial complex,

It's just not the time to be cryptic. I mean, our tax dollars for this (Iraq) war are being funneled through huge corporations – one of which Dick Cheney used to be head of (Halliburton).

Viewing the United States' involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as criminal, Vedder remains angry about the last presidency, and continues to bring attention to what he views as unjust killing in the name of war,

Those fucking bastards, they put us in this situation and screw up the whole fucking planet and goodwill with every other nation, and they are not going to be held criminally responsible.

Vedder became more personally involved with the criminal justice system when he became a vocal advocate for the West Memphis


3 and the case of Damien Echols. In 1994 three young men from Arkansas were falsely convicted of the grisly murders of three young boys. Echols was sentenced to death. With no physical evidence, the convictions were based on the satanic panic that occurred in a small southern town (see Jenkins & Maier-Katkin, 1992). Echols shares a writing credit for the song "Army Reserve" from the album Pearl Jam (2006), a collaboration that occurred during one of Vedder’s visits to Echols on death row. Vedder remained a staunch supporter of the boys and was present when the three men were released in August 2011 after having served 18 years.


Vedder would later insert himself into public debate regarding another politically divisive issue: the right to bear arms. During a publicity interview in September 2013 promoting their new album Lightning Bolt, Vedder stated to surfer Mark Richards,

The fact that we're living in a country where 90 percent of the people want further gun laws -- to maybe somehow put a dent in some of this insanity that's happening -- and yet there's no further legislation taking place, it's very frustrating and upsetting.

A snippet of the clip where he went on to say that "I get so angry that I almost wish bad things upon these people," was aired as a stand-alone sound bite and exposed Vedder to criticism. What he went on to say, but was generally absent from most press pieces, was

But I don't have to because it seems like they happen anyways. It seems like every week I'm reading about a 4-year-old either shooting their sister, their dad, their dog, their brother or themselves, because there's fucking guns laying around. But I guess it's 'fun.'

Vedder responded to the criticism regarding his statements about guns at the October 25th Hartford Connecticut show, which took place a mere 50 miles from the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, CT where 26 people were murdered. To members of the audience, it was obvious something was going to occur. The other band members left the stage and Vedder knelt on the stage, collecting his thoughts. He stood up and spoke into the microphone, addressing the crowd of over 16,000 fans who eagerly awaited what he had to say.

Tonight I got to meet three great men, incredible fathers of children who were lost, and it was such a powerful… a very powerful moment to have this chance to communicate to somebody that we had been thinking about so deeply.

And to know that it’s okay, in fact, not just okay, but it’s necessary that we continue a discussion to figure out how to unravel the situation where something like that can happen and make sure the odds of it happening again are very slim.

Vedder made reference to the criticism he received in the press in response to his previous comments about the need to protect people from gun violence. He framed the need for a discussion about firearms as a First Amendment issue. He defended his, and everyone else’s, right to voice an opinion about our personal security and well-being. Vedder encouraged the members of the audience to have the courage to demand a public discourse on the issue.

And you know, as well as I, you have to be very careful when talking about something like this. Because they want to defame your character or take away your right to speak, I mean while they’re protecting the second amendment they also don’t think you have the right to speak as an American as a taxpayer as a father, as a parent.

We’ve got a right to speak on this issue when the safety of our children is directly affected. And you will take some hits if you put it out there, but that’s the thing.


Lest anyone think Eddie and the band were putting their opinions out there for the public in an uninformed or ignorant way, Vedder let the crowd know they consulted with experts and scholars. He used a critical approach to explain why the public may be swayed by those in favor of relaxing gun regulation.

I just want to clarify and we’ve done some research and I’ve talked to some very, much smarter people than myself – there’s a lot of them – that the myth that the gun lobby is the most powerful lobby in our is a myth. That’s a myth. The money is not the most money. The amount of people – it’s just in the millions.

It’s a myth, but it’s just because they’re louder. They’re louder and they’re very tenacious and if you speak up against them they will jump on you, they will tear you apart, and make it so that nobody else wants to say anything, or they want them to be fearful that…I mean we’re talking about, I’m gonna stop. You know what they’re talking about.

Vedder galvanized the crowd by telling people what they can do about the issue. He reminded everyone to exercise their right to vote (an issue the band has long-supported; for example, they performed in Rock the Vote concerts in swing states in October 2004). As with his message about the wars, he told the crowd that pressure from voters, using the power each person has to voice an opinion, is what brings about social change.

So, if all the research is saying, and all the polls conducted, you know, and not just people reacting to what happened, but you have to not just react you have to prefect. You have to go into prevention mode. So what we have to do, if the majority of people agree that there should be more legislation just to make it a little harder. We’re not taking away the right, just a safety issue – a safety precautionary, the same things you have to do to get a driver’s license or a car. It can’t be as easy as buying a pair of shoes. All I implore you, and I don’t mean to be preaching to the converted, but sometimes the choir has to sing louder, and that’s one of these issues.

He summarized by saying,

If we were louder, it can happen, we just have to be louder  and we have to let the politicians know that they will be reelected if they do what we ask, and we are asking for them to do it now. Cause what we don’t want is for any of those children’s lives to be wasted.

The band followed with a powerful performance of “Life Wasted” from their 2006 self-titled album. In the five-plus minutes that Vedder spoke during the band’s break in the show, he used the word “gun” only once, when he was referring to power of political lobby groups. Perhaps he meant to protect himself from the inevitable criticism he knew would result. Without using the term “gun” it becomes more difficult for his words to be taken out of context by those who would try to manipulate his message.

Green Criminology

Environmentalist of the Year

Green Criminology is the study of harms to, crimes against, and laws that regulate the environment. Green criminology examines how human behavior threatens the environment. Green criminologists study not only environmental pollution but also mining, poaching, and timber crimes and the ensuing effects on humans and non-human species.

Vedder is advancing these issues that are important to green criminologists. Since 2003 the band has worked with scientists to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide output on their tours. They then invest in various carbon-offsetting environmental projects. In fact, Pearl Jam was named 2011 Planet Defenders by Rock The Earth for their environmental activism. Vedder, a known surfer, has been a long-time participant in a variety of environmental groups that work to protect oceans and other waterways.

During his October 26, 2013 appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Vedder used the opportunity to bring the issue of environmental contamination into the fore of people’s minds once again. Fallon played a clip from his July 2012 appearance featuring the two singing a duet called “Balls in Your Mouth” which Vedder joked should now be seen as “an environmental anthem.”

The oil spill, BP

Has left tar balls, all over the sea.

So don’t go swimming, down in the south

Unless you want, tar balls in your mouth

Balls in your mouth, balls in your mouth

Don’t swim in the ocean you’ll get balls in your mouth.

Vedder interspersed information about the Department of Justice trial against BP and the large amount of tar uncovered by the Coast Guard after Tropical Storm Karen hit the Gulf Coast, while Fallon riffed on the idea of “large balls” being found after the recent storm. Vedder remained on point and urged viewers to recognize the long-term effects of the BP oil spill.

But there’s this thing called the Gulf Restoration Network that you can look into and we were one of a group of people that tried to raise money for this organization so they could keep putting out information that was truthful and maybe was a different account than the kind of shiny happy commercials that the oil companies were putting out saying that ‘it’s all fine’ and ‘it’s all taken care of’ which if you did the research it would be interesting to see what you’d come up with.

As with his comments about guns, Vedder again referred to research as a source of truth, or at least as a source of information that stands in contrast to commonly held beliefs.

As the spokesman for Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder has used his ability to reach tens of thousands of people during a concert to promote issues of social justice. Over the band’s two-plus decades history, Vedder has educated his fans about a range of topics. He not only speaks about these important subjects but, of course, he also sings about them. By incorporating them into music culture he is marking the sociopolitical landscape of the time.

Vedder and Pearl Jam donate their time, names, and profits from their concerts to support these causes. They were early advocates in the fight against interpersonal violence, in the form of both bullying and domestic abuse. Vedder challenged the decisions of leaders and spoke out against the war during a time when many chose not to question authority. As the stories about gun violence stack up each day, Vedder and Pearl Jam are expressing their concern and urging their fans to as well. While green criminology is a relatively nascent area in the discipline, these criminologists may find allies in popular culture ready to advance their causes. With Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder continues to not only make music but also make a progressive mark on society as well.

Further Reading

Jenkins, P., & Maier-Katkin, D. (1992). Satanism: Myth and reality in a contemporary moral

panic. Crime, Law and Social Change, 17, 53-75.

Pearl Jam (2011). Pearl Jam Twenty. NY, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Environmental Justice at Stake in Canadian Provincial Election

Nickie Phillips

Sierra Club of Canada

Crimcast caught up with environmental activist John Wimberly who alerted us to an upcoming critical vote for the anti-fracking movement in Nova Scotia, Canada. As the documentaries Gasland and Gasland II have shown, regular people's access to fresh, clean water and unspoiled natural spaces have been threatened in U.S. states like Pennsylvania and North Dakota where corporate interests have been making big money off a risky form of extracting natural gas from deep underground in a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Recent protests in England flared up at the prospect of fracking companies operating there for the first time. Canadians are wrestling with the same problem-- is short-term profit worth risking a natural habitat in the long-term? As John Wimberly explains:

Preventing fracking is tremendously important, especially in a small province like Nova Scotia. We have varied geology and nowhere to retreat if we experience a worst-case scenario event, like a spill of waste-water or a polluted water table. As such, many citizens have been pushing for a ban or moratorium on the practice of hydraulic fracturing.

Unfortunately, a legislated moratorium or ban does not have any guarantee of stopping it from happening. These laws are made by the provincial government and can be removed by the provincial government if it so suits its interests. The only way to prevent fracking is by having a provincial government that is committed to the same goal.

NS fracking

With a provincial election nearing its final week, this is where I point out who the best option will be. It’s the New Democratic Party (NDP), the current provincial government and Canada’s foremost left-leaning political party. By a long-shot. No fracking is going on in Nova Scotia because they created a moratorium. They’ve also initiated two studies into fracking on the environmental and human health impacts. Beyond treating fracking as a public relations issue, it fits in line with their environmental policy: banning uranium mining, hugely increasing the amount of protected lands in Nova Scotia, and moving us toward renewable energy. This is all in stark contrast to the alternative, the Nova Scotia Liberal Party, who – if the polls are any indication – are likely to form the next government.

The Liberals are directly misinforming Nova Scotians in their platform by claiming they were the ones who initiated a moratorium that the NDP opposed. On fracking, they’re even lying in their platform. Their leader, Stephen McNeil, opposed the NDP’s expansion of protected land, suggesting that what we needed was a “moratorium on protecting land.” McNeil and the mining industry were the only ones opposed to this protection – and now he might be the next premier.

Of the greatest concern is the Liberal plan for U.S.-style deregulation of Nova Scotia Power. While there is certainly support for his broadly-stated call to “break the monopoly” of Nova Scotia Power, there are obvious consequences that directly undermine the interests of Nova Scotians – especially those concerned about environmental issues, fossil fuel use, and our contributions toward climate change. The Liberal plan to deregulate would remove our ability to continue to mandate a switch to renewable energy – which is both an environmental and fiscal issue for our province, as the cost of the coal we’re currently using is quickly increasing.

Infographic by Lucy Kim

And who makes up each party? The NDP, while not delivering a perfect environmental record, have environmentalists as a core-constituency and they occupy the highest levels of the party. They have also spent the vast majority of their political capital on switching to renewable energy – popular for being clean, green, and providing stable rates, but very unpopular for being more expensive than the coal we burn now.

The Liberals candidates and record is deeply troubling. One of their Halifax candidates declared that Nova Scotia should become a world innovation capital for fracking, and that he would pursue “green fracking”, a process that even the most unapologetic oil baron hasn’t suggested as ‘something that exists.’ In rural Nova Scotia, they have a candidate who has promised to bring liquid natural gas ports to the coastal community for trans-Atlantic shipping. Poorly thought-out plans like “the free-market will solve the problem” U.S.-style deregulation, combined with candidates that seem squarely opposed to moving away from fossil fuels, leads me to believe that the right decision for voters is clear-- go with the NDP.

The NDP have been far from perfect, and they have, especially recently, been very open about that. They didn’t live up to the expectations many of us had for them. But they remain the best choice for Nova Scotians, especially those concerned about environmental issues.


John Wimberly is a social, political, and environmental activist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He works for the NDP and also as a freelance writer. He is a regular contributor to Crimcast.

Sculpting Doughboys: Militarism, Manhood, and Memorials of WWI

Nickie Phillips

Jennifer Wingate

Crimcast sat down with Dr. Jennifer Wingate, an assistant professor in the International Cultural Studies, Foreign Languages, Fine Arts department at St. Francis College. Dr. Wingate recently published Sculpting Doughboys: Memory, Gender, and Taste in America’s World War I Memorials (2013), a book that explores memorials and sculptures, or "doughboys," in the United States in the aftermath of World War I.

In your work, you mention that World War I memorials and sculptures often celebrated militaristic ideals in ways that overshadowed the tragedy of war. Can you give a brief example of what you mean by this?

Especially in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, sculptural memorials were triumphant and heroic, often featuring actively fighting soldiers rather than mournful or dying soldiers. The emphasis was on belligerent themes rather than on loss and suffering. Many communities erected simple honor rolls (lists of names of the dead), but those who went through the trouble of raising money to erect sculptures needed to satisfy many different constituencies, including veterans and their families. Even though only a small percentage of US WWI soldiers actually saw combat (compared with Civil War soldiers for example), civilians and veterans alike equated male citizenship and service with rifles and bayonets. It was important for public memorials to reinforce that ideal of unwavering heroism. In my book, I also argue that the fighting soldier stood as a symbol of protection and vigilance during the postwar red scare. One memorial designer in particular, who sold over a hundred copies of his fighting soldier, advertised his memorial design as a sign of anti-radicalism.

In the aftermath of World War I, in what ways did the heroism of the memorials and sculptures relate to the broader visual culture of the era? 

Fighting soldiers and fit, healthy, and strong veterans were everywhere in the visual culture of the era, from movies and advertisements to sheet music covers. The year 1919 was a time of economic and social upheaval.  Returning soldiers who survived the war and the flu epidemic, faced unemployment and serious racial tensions. Memorials featuring stoic and virile soldiers served as reassuring beacons of stability and familiarity.

In your book, you mention that the doughboy sculptures reveal more than just "simple commemorations of the sacrifices of U.S. troops," and offer insight into the public's notion of manhood and strength. In what ways were these characteristics rendered in the sculptures and what are the racial implications of these representations?

Sculpting Doughboys

As with the previously dedicated Civil War memorials, these soldier sculptures were intended to represent universal notions of manhood, and in the 1920s in the United States, that still meant white manhood. It had been very important for African American enlisted men to fight rather than serve exclusively in labor battalions. However, only those regiments who fought with the French escaped the worst discrimination during their service. There were efforts to erect memorials to honor African American soldiers, but most were never realized. Chicago and Philadelphia dedicated two notable exceptions. The history of the Bronzeville memorial in Chicago is interesting because the memorial did not feature a fighting soldier at first, but three bronze reliefs depicting an African American warrior standing with shield and sword and personifications of Motherhood and Columbia. Later, the artist added a freestanding sculpture of a fighting soldier in response to community dissatisfaction with the original design, which was perceived as too “passive.”

Sculptors often subscribed to pseudoscientific beliefs that equated physical type with race, class, and national character. Examples abound of sculptors striving to achieve the postwar ideal of “100% Americanism” by portraying “American” type soldiers and of critics lauding memorial designs for capturing the authentic “American” man.

In what ways were sculptors, specifically those that were inclined to produce anti-war or pacifist art, constrained in their work?

Sculptors who did not want to celebrate war and militarism in their memorial designs had a bit more flexibility starting around 1921, but even then any pacifist sentiment that they expressed had to be open-ended and subtle. Public art is an art of consensus, and the politics of the interwar period were too complicated to allow for stridently pacifist commemorative statements. There are exceptions, but for the most part, sculptors who were unwilling to compromise their anti-war statements, did not succeed in realizing public memorials. Interestingly, some of the most striking exceptions were women sculptors, who were already working at a disadvantage in the field of public military sculpture. Anna Coleman Ladd, who had worked in France during the war making tin masks for disfigured veterans, dedicated an unusually gruesome memorial featuring a skeleton hanging from the barbed wire of no-man’s-land. The memorial was dedicated in a cemetery, and so did not have the visibility of a more public memorial located in a town square or park. The American Legion Post that commissioned it specifically requested a memorial that represented “the truth about war.”

The collaboration between the Governor of Maine, Percival Baxter, and the sculptor, Bashka Paeff, proved even more fortuitous. Like Ladd, Paeff felt very strongly that memorials should not glorify war. Baxter, who chose Paeff’s design for the state of Maine, agreed that memorials should teach the lessons of war’s violence. Paeff’s bronze relief features a female allegory of Civilization shielding her baby from the destruction of war.  Exceedingly rare for a U.S. war memorial, it also depicts the bodies of two dead soldiers. By the time the memorial was complete, the new governor (Baxter’s successor) objected to the relief’s pacifism, and according to one journalist, the pacifist ideas “current among women.” Notions of “patriotic motherhood” were promoted in the visual culture of the war, and women who did not willingly give their sons to the nation could be accused of radicalism.

You primarily used the Smithsonian Institution Inventory of American Sculpture database and files and artists’ papers in the Archives of American Art. Can you tell us some of the challenges you faced in doing this kind of archival research? Do you have any recommendations for other researchers wishing to use these archives?

The Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) database is a good place to start, and it is continuously updated, but it’s important to try to go to local sources as well, like regional historical societies, and to artists’ papers, which typically include project files and correspondence with the memorial committee. The Smithsonian Inventory of American Sculpture also has files on public memorials throughout the country that were inventoried during a “Save Outdoor Sculpture!” survey in the 1990s. They contain photos, miscellaneous clippings, and related information. I was very lucky to have a fellowship at the Smithsonian, which gave me regular access to those files and photographs in DC. Also, many of the Smithsonian’s photographs are being digitized now, so it’s easier, teamed with online resources like Flickr, to actually see what these memorials look like. Even so, pretty much every source is incomplete. To put the story of a single memorial commission together, I usually needed to consult multiple sources. The Library of Congress has the papers of sculptor Daniel Chester French, for example, but the National Archives has the papers of the Fine Arts Commission, which was heavily involved with French’s projects and proposals for the capital as well as with those of sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (whose papers are at the Archives of American Art).

Because many of the sculptors who made WWI memorials are lesser known than French and Whitney, I had to use a lot of papers that were never microfilmed (or digitized). In the case of the Boston-based artist Bashka Paeff, I tracked down her papers at the home of one of her nephews (with the help of a fellow art historian). The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art recently acquired some of those papers, but when collections are broken up, challenges are raised for future researchers. Now Paeff’s papers presumably are well organized and more accessible, but some pertinent items are located at other repositories, like the Massachusetts College of Art and Design library in Boston. Projects like this require a lot of persistence and detective work. My advice would be, even in an era of increasing digitization, not to rely on databases, and to exhaust all possible sources. Even though regional newspapers can be searched in excellent databases at the Library of Congress, there’s still obviously a lot of value in browsing and reading papers on microfilm.  Another helpful source for me was the monument trade journal, The Monumental News. I used to read it at the Science, Industry, and Business branch of the New York Public Library, but now those volumes are located off-site and recently one volume that I was looking for was missing. Hopefully, before too many more go missing, they can be digitized for online access!

What projects are you currently working on? Can we expect more work from you on other war memorials? 

I think my work on memorials may be complete for the time being, though I remain committed to public art and to art that’s used, enjoyed, and viewed outside museums and galleries. Though I’m a museum junkie and I appreciate “art for art’s sake,” the “high/low” distinction has always been a thorn in my side. When I was l growing up, Norman Rockwell was my favorite artist, but the art establishment has only relatively recently accepted his work as embodying legitimate artistic concerns. I’ve been thinking a lot about “social practice” art for a class I’m teaching, Art of Social Change. What interests me about this art is that it raises so many questions about the definition of art and how one evaluates art that deals more with ethics than aesthetics. There’s something irritating about these conversations and that’s always the sign of a good new project.


This is the third in a 5-part series appearing throughout 2013 focusing on the often game-changing discoveries that come out of archival work in the realm of criminology and criminal justice.

When Police Corruption is Normal: Brazil's Criminal Justice Challenge

Nickie Phillips

police-brutality-on-kids brazil

Guest post by Amanda Higazi

Police corruption, though condemned by the international community, is a transnational problem that continues to impede justice. In comparison, although both Brazil and the United States of America suffer from police corruption, the sheer prevalence of corrupt practices displayed in Brazil demand the implementation of reform measures. Modifications should be made that incorporate civilian oversight, training, effective classroom instruction, pilot programs, and an innovative system of checks and balances within the Brazilian police force.

Research shows that Brazil has violated fundamental human rights in breach of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture which was ratified in 2007. Police abuse and torture allegations have been so prominent in prisoner facilities that they are believed to have been what incited the creation of the First Command of the Capital (PCC), arguably Brazil’s most powerful prison gang. There are also routine assassinations of street children and random civilians by police. Furthermore, there is a growing epidemic of police cover-ups for routine assassinations that often get documented on police reports as resisting arrest or retaliatory gang fire. In addition to this, there is an unlawful practice of police tampering and/or destroying evidence.

Since Brazil is only a recently democratized country, the preceding dictatorship has been effective in instilling a code of silence assumed by its citizens. Brazilians continue to live in a perpetual state of fear since witnesses are not welcome to speak out about their police or government. Due to nature of retaliatory killings by police death squads for anyone who questions the regime, there is essentially no witness protection offered. Although both the United States and Brazil evidently have a pervasive trend of police corruption, it appears to be a more prominent concern for the latter because of the severity-- and sense of normalcy-- the citizens have associated with it. Although this appears to be an inextricable quandary there has been considerable effort made towards reform.

My research has addressed the scope of these reformations, considering many of which are mirrored after programs implemented in the United States, such as civilian complaint review boards and increased police training.  Within this context, my research also addressed the rudimentary elements that are present within the society that enable police corruption to continue, as well as some of the efforts already underway to combat it. For example, the Sao Paulo government's requirement that police contact emergency response teams for assistance and treatment at the scenes of shootings, and prohibiting them from altering the scene or removing victims, will go a long way to prevent cover-ups of police abuse.  The policy should be national.  In an effort to create a better tomorrow, it is imperative that all injustices are brought to light today.


Amanda Higazi is a Masters student in the International Crime and Justice program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is an advocate for international human rights and seeks to ameliorate impunity within the criminal justice system which often challenges the protection of civil liberties.

Good Diplomacy: Why Israel Should Consider a Prisoner Transfer Program

Nickie Phillips

Gaza-Jericho agreement

Guest post by Ariel Bigio

In the United States and Israel, discourse about the goals of prisoner transfer is often framed in a security context. How prisoner transfers are discussed by national leaders reveals justifications, both in terms of bringing people home and transferring others to their home countries. For the United States, the motivation behind prisoner transfer stems from protecting American citizens imprisoned abroad. Israel’s security context is more military based-- a social and political issue involving soldiers and terrorism. The United States has a general prisoner transfer program while Israel engages in one-time transfers on a case-by-case basis.  Israel would benefit from developing a prisoner transfer program because it is another diplomatic tool that a state can utilize in its arsenal in strengthening international relations and garnering further trust.

The United States’ prisoner transfer program is run through the Department of Justice in the International Prisoner Transfer Unit (IPTU). The program began in 1977 through a bilateral treaty between the United States and Mexico. There are two aims for prisoner transfer. The first is that rehabilitation will be better served in the offenders’ home country where they can be closer to family and friends. The second aim is to provide more humane conditions than those found in foreign prisons where inmates are faced with a new culture, language, and standard of prison life. An article from April 11 published on the United States Courts website gives a great summary of the benefits to Americans of prisoner transfer.

Israel is not unfamiliar with prisoner transfers; however these have been in the context of one-time agreements, and not a general policy.  Under the Gaza- Jericho agreement of 1994, Israel agreed to release 5,000 Palestinian prisoners as part of the negotiation process. In 2008, Israel exchanged five Lebanese prisoners and 199 Lebanese bodies buried in the North of Israel in exchange for two bodies of Israeli soldiers held by Hezbollah. In 2011, 1,027 prisoners were transferred to Gaza, the West Bank, or abroad in exchange for a captured Israeli solider named Gilad Shalit. These transfers or exchanges are precipitated by a negotiation with an intended outcome. In comparison, the United States transfer program is an agreement between countries that promotes transfer and precedes the necessity for negotiation.

Ariel Bigio

While there are definite criticisms of the implementation of the United States’ transfer policy, the importance of these treaties is paramount for setting precedence and enabling other avenues of communication and cooperation between foreign governments. This is an important tool that Israel can use as negotiations of the peace process continue with the Palestinian Authority. Israel spends almost one-fifth of its national budget on defense and it is an important investment for Israel to consider the transfer program. Prisoner transfer is a strategic policy with global implications. National decisions have a global impact in the relations between states. The reality of the situation is that as the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians continues, it would be an important diplomatic policy for Israel to implement a prisoner transfer program.

Ariel Bigio currently lives in New York. Ariel worked at the Office of the United States Trade Representative and at the Department of Justice in the International Prisoner Transfer Unit, both in Washington, DC.  She earned a B.A. in American Studies and Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland and spent a semester in Ghana with the School for International Training. Ariel spent two years in Israel working with Israeli and American youth.

Sharing the Burden: Comparing American and Dutch Drug Policies Using Distributive Justice Theory

Nickie Phillips

Dutch American flags

Guest post by Jovanni Rodriguez

As a criminal justice scholar for several years now, I am well aware of the arguments that anti-drug crusades bring about widespread social costs to certain societies. This is particularly true in comparing and contrasting the drug laws of the United States and the Netherlands; the U.S. has extremely stringent policies when juxtaposed with the Netherlands.

Using distributive justice theory we can analyze the disbursement of burdens and disadvantages in certain communities to determine which country has been truly successful in terms of achieving justice through their drug policies. Broadly speaking, distributive justice scholars look to a society's institutions, asking whether the benefits and burdens of a law or policy are distributed equally among society's groups and members. Dutch methods of leniency have led to more benefits for both the offender and society when compared to the United States.

In the Netherlands, marijuana is listed as a "Schedule II" "soft" drug, as the government views the risks associated with marijuana to be "smaller" than other drugs and less harmful to health and to society. In the U.S, marijuana was categorized as a "Schedule I" drug under The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, amongst LSD and heroin. A "Schedule I" categorization means it has been found to have no medical use and has the highest abuse potential. The difference in the legal categorization of marijuana in both countries represents the different stances each government has and takes on marijuana use.

The extreme anti-drug policies of the United States bring a multitude of problematic justice system outcomes. Some of the various negative social consequences of the U.S.'s "War on Drugs", which began under the Reagan administration in the 1980s, include high incarceration rates, diminished life chances, weak social bonds, and unemployment. These broad societal costs were found to have become particularly problematic for certain minority American populations, specifically young, African American males in inner cities. American anti-drug crusades also bring about substantial negative outcomes for American society as a whole, which, when using the distributive justice theory, shows America's punitive system to be unfair and unjust.

A coffeeshop in Amsterdam (

The Netherlands's decriminalization of small cannabis transactions, the continued operation of "coffeeshops," and formal written policies of non-enforcement for minor drug violations have been successful in the Dutch's goal to regulate an unrestricted drug market. The separation of drug markets has also proven to keep Dutch cannabis users away from the orbits of hard drug users and sellers. The Netherlands’ lenient policies has not only lead to lower levels of lifetime use of marijuana when compared to the U.S., but decriminalization has also lead to several other desirable social effects involving rehabilitation of drug abusers, more government funding and attention on the trafficking of "hard" drugs, and special drug programs in schools and education campaigns. The Dutch government's pro-active approach in preventing drug abuse, rather than the U.S.'s extreme reactive approach to punishing users, serves as a superior alternative in approaching drug regulation and disbursing equal and fair justice for both the individual and the community.

Not only has the overall goal of drug prohibition and/or regulation not been reached in America, as Americans report the highest level of cocaine and marijuana use, but America's strict enforcement of drug laws and free distribution of criminal justice outcomes have failed to meet the interests of both the individual and the community. Incarceration rates are the highest in the world, as the majority of those incarcerated are not only drug offenders, but also young, African American men from inner cities. The U.S. system of deterrence and harsh legal penalties has also had broad social costs for general society, involving high tax-payer investment in enforcement activities, continued and increased drug abuse, the marginalization of certain populations, health risks, and a criminal justice system which solely focuses on drug prevention.

As the outcomes of strict drug law enforcement have unequally disabled certain demographic populations in the United States, we see that the U.S. is not guided by the concept of distributive justice. These injustices and disparities discussed are hidden by the administration of drug laws, as the apparent goals of the War on Drugs meet the interests of a society motivated by morals, safety, and basic law and order. However, U.S. drug laws are solely met with a perception of fairness and justice, as historical and current outcomes include the redirection of tax-payer money, unemployment, and poverty. When compared with the societal outcomes of the Dutch's drug policies, the U.S.'s long-term societal consequences are results of an inferior approach to drug regulation. The Netherlands distribution of justice has not only proven to be successful, due to statistics that prove that less Dutch smoke marijuana when compared to Americans, but their methods of leniency have also led to more benefits for both the offender and society, and this is the true goal of equal and fair distributive justice.


Jovanni Rodriguez is graduate student International Criminal Justice Masters Program (ICJ—MA) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Jovanni graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice with Magna Cum Laude honors in 2012 after majoring in Criminal Justice. She was the first ever youth representative for the International Sociological Association (ISA) while interning at the United Nations, where she continues to work with NGOs. She is a full-time manager in an Italian restaurant in Staten Island, New York. Jovanni's career goals include combining her criminological research interests with her passion for international human rights and activism.

Susan B. Anthony House and the Contemporary Supreme Court Voting Rights Case

Nickie Phillips

Guest post by Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD Earlier in the week, I was at a dinner meeting with some colleagues who work with Finger Lakes Wine Country. Having visited the Finger Lakes earlier this year, I commented to a colleague that I had recently visited the Susan B. Anthony House, located in Rochester, New York. I was well impressed with the elegant modesty of the home, moved by Anthony’s personal purse (which to me resembled a doctor’s black bag) and taken with learning about her role in the ant-slavery movement (as well as that of women’s rights).  

As luck would have it, I saw the home of “Susan B.” as local historian Preston Pierce calls her, shortly after the United States Supreme Court heard argument on the (currently pending) case of Shelby County  v. Holder and the week after argument was heard in Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona.

In short, the Alabama county argues that Section 5 in the Voting Rights Act, which requires several state and local governments to seek Justice Department approval when changing voting statutes, is outdated and unconstitutional. The question is whether voter ID laws that prevent minorities from casting their ballots provide incontestable proof of the necessity of stricter voting rights laws.  More formally stated, did the decision of Congress, in 2006, reauthorizing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act under the pre-existing coverage formula of Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act exceed its authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and thus violating the Tenth Amendment and Article IV of the United States Constitution.  The Arizona case regards a law requiring documentary proof of citizenship when registering to vote;  indeed, Proposition 200 requires that citizens present certain specified proof of citizenship when registering to vote, and requires that voters present identification at the polls on Election Day in order to vote

Like many, I await the result of this “blockbuster” pair of cases (as the late June decisions frequently are – among the others awaited this June are the same-sex marriage pair of cases).  In my Fall teaching classes, I require students to write an essay about how they registered (or not) to vote, and, where not, why not.  The non-voters often provide the most interesting material.  Last year, the 17-year-olds in my intro Principles of Sociology class pointedly expressed dismay at not being able to participate fully in the discussion (by voting), while international students wrote of the leadership selection process in their home countries. When I had a guest speaker, Elsa M. Shartsis, come in to discuss the voter ID cases (on Election Day, the first day of class after Hurricane Sandy), I was astonished to learn that her late father would not have been qualified to vote in his native Pennsylvania, because he was born on a farm and did not have a birth certificate.  Less than two hours after Shartsis’ talk, I voted by affidavit in New York, under the provisions of Governor Cuomo (and know many who did similarly in New Jersey, further to Governor Christie’s provisions).

I must wonder what Susan B. would make of all of this, nearly a century after the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, gave women the right to vote. If “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” taking so many years after passage of the Fifteenth Amendment regarding “race, color or previous condition of servitude,” let us hope that we are not about to have constitutional law take any steps backward.

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, currently teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College, where she was named the 2011/2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year, for her innovative teaching methods and student mentoring. Her first book, The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press: 2012) has been nominated for the 2013 British Society of Criminology Book Prize. She also writes about dramaturgy, culinary culture, visual sociology and criminal justice issues.

On Vermont Decriminalizing Marijuana and Jupiter, Florida’s “The Square Grouper”

Nickie Phillips

This past week, some colleagues and I decided to have some downtime in Jupiter, Florida. One colleague was called “Hurricane Sue,” because she seemed to attract storms wherever she went, in and out of the Hurricane Belt, and in and out of season. They affectionately call me “CSI Demetra,” in honor of my attraction to sights of criminal and criminal justice activity. I wrote about just such a one, the ancient Dungeon of San Cristobal Fort in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While viewing Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse a historic 1860 lighthouse built on the easternmost point in Florida, a tour operated by the Loxahatchee River Historical Society, our guide pointed out that we could see across the water to a restaurant called “The Square Grouper.” The Square Grouper is such a popular tiki bar that both the woman who gave me my last haircut (in New York) and the man seated next to me on the plane down to Florida (from New York) recommended visiting the place. Their comments regarded the tiki décor, the laid back attitude, the Jimmy Buffet musical drop-ins for a home-town Margarittaville.

Me, I found out (from our guide at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse) that the Square Grouper was called that because smugglers used to drop plastic wrapped marijuana bricks (a/k/a “keys” for kilos) to wash up for collection by enterprising businesspeople. Needless to say, this intrigued me. Moreover, while some of my colleagues climbed up the lighthouse, I checked into Twitter to find out that Vermont’s governor had signed a bill decriminalizing marijuana, becoming the 17th state to do so. The irony of reading this while within visual distance of the Square Grouper was not lost upon me, and during a dinner meeting with my colleagues at Sinclair’s Ocean Grill the Jupiter Beach Resort and Spa, I commented on “the hilarity value” of derivation of the Square Grouper’s name, which could be likely to find its way into the semesterly “grass class” methodology discussion (no participant observation allowed or encouraged, but a great way to get students discussing and assessing methodology in sociology, anthropology, legal studies and criminal justice classes, where traditional reference to readings is an exercise perceived as akin to a dental visit sans Novocain).

As an afterword, Hurricane Sue had a hurricane to drink during a subsequent – and grass-free – visit to the Square Grouper.

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, currently teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College, where she was named the 2011/2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year, for her innovative teaching methods and student mentoring. Her first book, The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press: 2012) has been nominated for the 2013 British Society of Criminology Book Prize. She also writes about dramaturgy, culinary culture, visual sociology and criminal justice issues.

You Believe You May Be Indicted Criminally... Would You (or Should You) Go Inquisitorial or Adversarial?

Nickie Phillips

King John signs the Magna Carta (Goodrich, 1844, History of York)

Guest post by Roger Szajngarten Based on my research, the answer is that if you feel very likely to be indicted and are guilty, but wealthy, you should go for the adversarial system. On the other hand, if you are innocent and poor, you may want to consider the inquisitorial system. The previous statement is based on my research findings regarding the grand jury in the US and the inquisitorial system in France and their respective histories, resulting in my recommendation that one of the inquisitorial system elements be incorporated within the American system.

The origin of the US grand jury can be traced back to the Vikings, the Saxons and the Franks tribes, but most directly to the relationship between King John and the English nobility, which in 1215 resulted in the enacting of the Magna Carta. Over time, the idea that a grand jury is a people’s panel necessary to indict took shape. The grand jury had been part of the American process to render justice prior to the establishment of the Constitution. The grand jury is specifically mentioned in the Bill of Rights, but was not incorporated in the executive, judicial or legislative branches. The original and current independence of the grand jury is in line with the goal to protect the innocent from the excess of the state. The grand jury has been and remains a powerful institution as it can issue subpoenas, question witnesses and prosecutors, but, most importantly, refuse to indict. However, the role of the grand jury has become perverted, and it is questionable as to whether it is still effective in protecting citizens. In effect, the prosecutor is physically present with mostly inexperienced grand jurors, preparing all the (often leading) questions to be asked from witnesses. Furthermore there are reported cases in which the prosecutor did not present all of the exculpatory evidence, used hearsay or excluded evidence not acceptable in a court in order to convince a grand jury. The famous and often quoted statement of Judge Sol Wachtler in 1985 summarizes the current situation as "Any prosecutor, who wanted to, could indict a ham sandwich.”

The U.S. criminal justice system relies on the adversarial trial with all its inherent checks and balances to address the key issue of guilt or innocence. However, since most defendants never reach the trial stage, because of the high rate of the use of plea bargaining, the values of our Constitution, which goes to such great length to protect the rights of individuals, have been weakened.

“La Loi” (The Law) by Jean-Jacques Feuchère, Place du Palais Bourbon, Paris (Daily Photo Stream, March 2008)

The French inquisitorial law system, which can be traced back to the Roman-Canonical approach, had been trending toward centralization and powerful judges. While originally there was some sort of jury system to investigate and report on fact, subsequent to the crowning of Napoleon as emperor, the inquisitorial system went further away from the jury system. The Napoleonic Code formally impaneled judges as an elite system constrained by extensive rules and regulations to ensure due process and that laws be promulgated solely by the legislative branch. Accordingly, most of the functions of the grand jury in France have traditionally been fulfilled by an investigating magistrate (juge d’instruction) as opposed to untrained citizens.

However, in contrast to the U.S., significant constitutional rights for the protection of individuals, which are often taken for granted and essential, do not exist in France. For example, there are weak exclusionary rules, police may easily detain a suspect, and only since recently an arrested suspect is immediately entitled to the presence of an attorney. Similar to the adversarial system, the initial investigation is led by the police and the prosecutor. If the prosecutor wants to pursue the case, the investigating magistrate takes over the investigation for serious and complex situations. The investigating magistrate is a professional and independent judge that acts as a neutral party between the state represented by the police and the prosecutor, and the suspect/accused and the defense counsel. The goal of the investigating magistrate is to seek the truth. The investigating magistrate, for instance, can call witnesses, retain independent experts at the cost of the state, organize confrontations, incarcerate or release suspects and he can then either dismiss a case or seek an indictment.

Reforms of the French inquisitorial system are actively being debated, including the role of the investigating magistrate. Some of the challenges originate from the European Court of Human Rights regarding individual rights protections. The reform, partially implemented, as to the role of the investigating magistrate stems from the tension between the strong Executive branch prevalent in France as well as at least one well published failure of the existing system.

I found out that both systems currently suffer from serious weaknesses and challenges in fulfilling their original mandates.  For the inquisitorial system, it is the unchecked power of an elite corps of magistrate and limited individual rights, and for the adversarial system the grand jury has become no more than a prosecutorial tool. As I have explained further in my research, the United States should build up on the investigating magistrate concept to rekindle its grand jury. States and the federal government should specifically introduce a professional and neutral judge dedicated to working with the people’s panel to fulfill its original mandate. The presence of a professional judge in grand juries would serve as a deterrent or a filter for any excesses of the state.


Roger A. Szajngarten is a current graduate student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the International Crime and Justice Program.  Roger is also a financial executive with almost 40 years of experience in more than 35 countries specializing in M&A, Treasury, Insurance and Entrepreneurship. Before that he studied Mathematics in Paris, France, and then earned his BSc in Aeronautical Engineering at the Israel Institute of Technology while also studying Sociology, and lastly an MBA at Columbia University. His specific areas of interest at John Jay are white collar crimes and markets regulation, as well as terrorism.

If the shoe fits…. Review of Broadway's Kinky Boots, Lynchburg's Craddock Terry Hotel, and Charlottesville's The Local

Nickie Phillips


Guest post by Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD1 This (rave) review is all about shoes, and more specifically shoe factories. I recently attended a performance of Kinky Boots Al Hirschfeld Theater, with music by Cyndi Lauper and book by Harvey Fierstein (both nominated for Tony Awards, among the whopping, show stopping 13 Tony nods Kinky Boots has received). The musical (Lauper’s freshman effort in this arena), based upon a 2005 British comedic film of the same name, tells the (fact-based) story of a young man named Charlie Price (Stark Sands, also nominated for Best Actor) who inherits a reputable-albeit-failing shoe factory from his father – a family business that he did not particularly want.After a drag queen named Lola (the extraordinary Billy Porter, whom I predict will win the Tony, as he has done with the Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards) saves Charlie from a mugging, breaking a high-heeled boot in the process, s/he complains at length about the lack of a product for (larger footed) men to be attractively (and femininely) shod in. Lola’s complaints about the shoddy turn into a plan between the two to create a niche market for soon-to-be well-shod drag queens, and save the Price factory.


I should say that both men acquit themselves admirably (as does Annaleigh Ashford, nominated for Best Featured Actress in her turn as a factory worker with wisdom, wit and a blooming romance with Charlie); however, Porter trumps straight man Sands by well-portraying both a man (Simon, when not in drag as Lola) and a woman. As I told a colleague, I applauded at the curtain call for Sands, but I unabashedly cried at the curtain call for Porter. I enjoyed Lauper’s music, and was riveted when she recently was interviewed by Stephen Colbert and told him that because her sister was a member of the gay community, that made her one, and enhanced her commitment to the show. The 59-year-old fosters aspiration, a girl who wanted to have fun grown into a force to be reckoned with. This said, some of the best moments were owned totally by Porter, such as “red is the color of sex,” and “I came for the adulation.” Stark gets full credit for a hilarious turn as a boot model in a pinch, but the show belongs to Porter. It also belongs to David Rockwell’s sets, for which he is nominated for a Best Scenic Design Tony. Shoe factories are quite the place to see and be seen these days, as I discovered while in Central Virginia, where I stayed at the Craddock Terry Hotel (1312 Commerce Street, Lynchburg, Virginia,, 434–455–1500). One of the “Historic Hotels of America,” Lynchburg’s Craddock Terry was a shoe factory itself, founded in 1888. The waterfront hotel is considered a key element of Lynchburg’s downtown revitalization, much as the shoe factory in Kinky Boots was viewed as saving a social and economic group in Northhampton, England (which I may put on this year’s UK itinerary this year, in homage). The lobby and room décor would give David Rockwell’s Tony nominated sets some serious competition (I found it difficult to simply enter and exit the lobby without looking at shoe displays, antique safes and the like.) The Craddock Terry is a boutique hotel who takes its historical roots very seriously, while providing serious fun to guests. (For example, breakfast is delivered in wooden shoe boxes.) One historical note is that there is a large red high heeled shoe announcing the presence (it is impossible to get lost) of the waterfront hotel. A colleague told me that it (along with another, displayed elsewhere on the property) was original to the factory, which she remembers from her girlhood some decades ago. There is a hotel dog, Buster Brown, a Wirehaired Fox Terrier (who movie buffs will recall as an “Asta dog” in the Nick and Nora Thin Man mystery movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy). The turn down service has a high-heeled shoe cookie that would make Kinky Boots’s Lola swoon with glee. And, in a first, the Craddock Terry has a “Chief Experience Officer,” Timechee Williams, who cheerfully accommodates eccentricities (mine happens to be full fledged milk for my morning dose of caffeine). Should Williams ever wish to venture forward, I suspect that the Kinky Boots cast and crew would be most welcoming indeed. Rounding out the “sets” of shoe factories is the Charlottesville, Virginia restaurant, The Local at 824 Hinton Avenue, 434.984.9749, which was established as a shoe repair shop, circa 1912, with a small apartment upstairs for the proprietor, in the Belmont area. In March 2008, the Local opened to provide a venue to showcase the abundant supply of small farmers, artisan cheese makers, breweries, distilleries and award wining vineyards located in Charlottesville and the surrounding area. A feature I particularly enjoyed was that the Local also uses lamps/stained glass and light fixtures from a local artisans (Vee Osvalds and Charles Hall, respectively, from McGuffy Arts), as well as reclaimed wood and artisanal chairs. There is also a rotating local art exhibition, with works for sale. The exposed brick interior would be as welcome on David Rockwell’s set as on the restaurant walls of the Local. (While this piece is focusing upon the dramaturgical opportunities presented by shoe factories, I note that the food at the Local is also splendid and locally sourced; the crispy shrimp with pickled ginger black sesame aioli, seaweed salad and local honey revealed that seaweed is not just for sushi lovers anymore and was a standout in a menu of standouts replete with flavor of imminent freshness and locally sourced ingredients.) When I first heard of Kinky Boots, I thought it would be, well, fun, to attend the theatrical performance written by the girl who just wanted to have fun. In retrospect, it has taken me down the road of shoes (and their factories) as dramaturgical (and culinary) construction, a most surprising path to walk.

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, currently teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College, where she was named the 2011/2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year. Her first book, The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press: 2012) has been nominated for the 2013 British Society of Criminology Book Prize. She also writes about dramaturgy, culinary culture, visual sociology and criminal justice issues.

Prosecuting the Big Fish: A Brief Comparison of Organized Crime Laws in the United States and Italy

Nickie Phillips


Guest post by Katie Kikendall

Despite a reputation as an antiquated concept, organized crime is still prevalent in society today. The FBI elaborates on its depth and reach, asserting that, “Organized crime comes at us from every corner of the globe.” In fact, it has diversified in its scope and activities in ways much more sophisticated than the roaring twenties era concept. In line with its growth have been policy and law enforcement efforts to stem and reduce this spread. Organized crime poses a threat to nation states in both social and economic aspects. Some of the activities it still oversees includes gambling, loan sharking, money laundering, waste hauling, and drug trafficking. Of particular relevance for legislation is an examination of Article 416-bisin Italy, and the United State’s favored legislation against organized crime, RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act. Despite the success that both have had in their respective countries, RICO has been more effective in targeting organized crime than Article 416-bis.

The Italian Law Collection at the Library of Congress (

In defining Organized Crime, Turone (2006) points out that, “Italian case law requires for the criminal association to be more durable and complex than that implied by the UN convention” (p.48) Contrast this definition to that of the United States, where there is not currently one statutory definition of organized crime. In fact, RICO legislation tends to describe, and consequently criminalize, the activities of organized crime members more than the association with the group. In terms of definition, Italy’s more strict requirements differentiate it from international standards and may make it more difficult to prosecute transnational organizations.

In addition to the differences in definitions, the burden of proof required for individuals to be convicted under Article 416-bis and RICO are different. Under 416, witnesses are unnecessary and “prosecution is based upon relating the crimes committed to the documentation of the economic and financial operations carried out by Mafia members” (Scotti, 2002, p.160) This accounts for a lighter burden of proof than RICO. In addition to requiring the establishment of an enterprise, RICO cases must also establish a pattern of racketeering activity, where, “at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years” [RICO, 18 U.S.C. § 1961(5) (1976)], as well as an additional act beyond this pattern established, for example, investment in said enterprise. This higher burden of proof has allowed prosecutors in the United States to indict those with a higher stake in organized crime, for example bosses and capos, rather than risk just punishing replaceable soldiers. In terms of punishment Article 416-bis provide for mandatory sentencing, but at less length of imprisonment than those mandated by the United States. This length of mandatory sentencing in the United States has meant it keeps higher ranking individuals out of the enterprise for longer, once again, attacking the scaffolding of these enterprises.

Both Article 416-bis and RICO have enjoyed successes in their respective countries, however, RICO has been more effective at reducing organized crime due to its ability to target the higher ranking members of the organization. It is important for countries to have effective legislation and policy in place so that they may effectively address organized crime, not only in the realm of the traditional mafia, but also, looking forward, in terms of white collar crime, Asian-based organized crime, as well as terrorist  networks.


Katie Kikendall is a current graduate student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the International Crime and Justice Program. She earned her B.A. in Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine. Her specific areas of interest include organized crime and terrorism.

Lucky Guy Tom Hanks Heads Journalistic Ensemble and Challenges NYPD

Nickie Phillips

Lucky Guy Tom Hanks Heads Journalistic Ensemble and Challenges NYPD Guest post by Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD1924

There has been much ado this year about the NYPD stop and frisk policies, which NYPD and prosecuting authorities claim makes the streets of New York safer, and others claim promotes racial profiling.  At the time of this writing, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin is considering the case of David Floyd et al v. The City of New York, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 08-1034.  This was not the first racial controversy to be visited upon the NYPD, nor is it likely to be the last.  So I said when originally drafting this review, then I read the recent report in The New York Times article by Frances Robles and N. R. Kleinfeld that the Brooklyn District Attorney Conviction Integrity Unit is looking into some 50 murder cases assigned to “acclaimed” homicide Detective Louis Scarcella, who handled cases in the 1980s and 1990s, during the crack epidemic.  On May 24, Robles wrote a follow up piece in which she said that many of the original Scarcella witnesses were either now dead or hard to find.

The same time period – and some of the same issues – are  regarded in the late Nora Ephron’s journalistic play (and ode to journalists), Lucky Guy. The play depicts a painful piece of Policing Past – the scandal surrounding the sodomy of Abner Louima while in custody for a minor offense, at the hands (and toilet plunger) of policemen in Brooklyn’s 77th Precinct. (A former professor of mine, at a dinner party at his Ditmas Park home, pointed out is a local site of notoriety).  As a former criminal appeals attorney and appellate judicial law clerk, I find this play brings out the parenthetical writer in me.

Many people are writing about Tom Hanks’ acting, and there is no question that he is an extraordinary actor in an extraordinary role (going from hungry cub reporter to cancer ridden Pulitzer-winner in the course of the show, without the benefit of few months in between to alter his body, as he did in Cast Away). Rather, this is an ode to ensemble playing, indeed, at the inferential gestures of Hanks himself. As I have told a number of people who have asked me how he was, I have pointedly noted that upon his entrance to thunderous applause, he briefly nodded (as if to nicely say, “yeah, I know, I’m Tom Hanks, now can I please go to work?”) and then disappeared into the role of columnist Mike McAlary and the workaday newsroom.

Lucky GuyBroadhurst TheatreCourtney B. Vance, as Hanks’ boss Hap Hairston, gives what may be the Best Featured Actor Tony performance of the season. Vance variously nurtures, harangues, disciplines and celebrates the reporter who broke the Louima case (the Haitian immigrant is played with earnest compassion by Stephen Tyrone Williams, whose one scene turn reminded me that Judy Dench won an Oscar for 8 minutes in Shakespeare in Love).  As Hanks shows McAlary to be a journalist in a hot mess for going after a rape victim he libelously (but seemingly earnestly) accused of fabrication.  McAlary then takes a call when literally half-dead to show up at Louima’s hospital bedside, the reporter was in search of redemption. After hearing Louima’s story of oral and anal sodomy by police officers in the police station toilet, he tells him, “tell the DA you talked to a reporter.” Those who do not remember a world before cell phone images and videos are well-tutored by the oral history inextricably intertwined by Ephron with action scenes.

The play has been criticized for being too talky, but as one who engaged in ethnographic write up of the criminal trials of Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian for a PhD, I can attest that the play was all talk and all action. The search for breaking news, the hanging out on the doorsteps for exclusives, the smoke-filled newsrooms that today would be smoke free and blasting into the blogosphere and Twittersphere are reminiscent of the days (in 1996, especially) when print, radio and television reporters literally lined the walls of a courthouse and (in 1997) literally pitched a tent on the courthouse green. To me, the detail development was enthralling, perhaps because I have had to live in, and observe, that headspace as both a doctoral candidate and a writer. Wives (like Maura Tierney, as McAlary’s), husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends were left aside (if not completely behind), where the social world of the courthouse (to borrow a phrase from LSE sociologist Paul Rock) ruled, even more than the holdings of the court and the judges themselves. For me, the process fascinates, and the professional development (and personal unraveling) of the newsroom journalists and editors was well-worth every word, every gesture, every image and scene depicted in David Rockwell’s set.Lucky Guy Broadhurst Theatre

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD currently teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College, where she was named the 2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year. Her first book, Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America: The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press, 2012) (100 year study of US and UK doctors prosecuted for medical euthanasia/assisted suicide and role of meI dia) has been nominated for the2013 BSC Criminology Book Prize.  Her PhD, from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Law and Department of Sociology (dual registration), was awarded in 2009, based upon her dissertation of an ethnography entitled, The Politics of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A Comparative Case Study of Emerging Criminal Law and the Criminal Trials of Jack ‘Dr. Death’ Kevorkian, in which she studied the chief prosecuting attorneys/judges, juries, patient’s family members and the media, as well as the changes in law and court culture pertaining to Kevorkian.

The Irish Case Against Assisted Suicide: An American Perspective

Nickie Phillips

The Irish Case Against Assisted Suicide: An American PerspectiveDemetra M. Pappas [1]

This past week, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that 59-year-old multiple sclerosis patient Marie Fleming does not have the right to an assisted death. Suicide has been decriminalized in Ireland since 1993; however, the judgment of the Court, delivered by Chief Justice Susan Denham said that the Irish Constitution does not encompass an “explicit right to commit suicide, or to determine the time of one’s own death.”

When Fleming, a former university (college) lecturer, argued her appeal in February, she was using a wheelchair. She noted that she was in constant pain, but more than that, argued that her inability to swallow would probably cause her to choke to death. This is a constant fear of those afflicted with illnesses such as Huntington’s Disease, ALS and MS. Indeed, in the 60 Minutes “Death by Doctor” tape of Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian, in which he narrated his medical euthanasia of 52-year-old ALS patient Tom Youk, Kevorkian noted that Youk was “terrified of choking, terrified.” Kevorkian was convicted, but many at the trial and sentencing (myself included) were of the view that the jury verdict was more a result of him sending the tape of himself euthanizing Youk to CBS, and then narrating it for moderator Mike Wallace. In this comment, I am not arguing in favor of (or opposition to) assisted suicide. This is, I believe, a personal choice which may as a matter of law be made by patients in jurisdictions where assisted suicide is lawful. Ireland is not one of those jurisdictions. There is a difference between decriminalizing suicide and affirmatively allowing for suicide – medically assisted or otherwise. Suicide, or self-homicide, has been decriminalized in Anglo-American jurisdictions, so as not to forfeit the suicidant’s property to the state or the Crown and so as not to impose the Anglo-American penalty of burial at crossroads. In a sense, this is (and I say this secularly, although I imagine that it holds theologically) literally so as not to visit the sins of the parent upon the descendants. Moreover, even where assisted suicide is lawful, in some jurisdictions (such as Oregon), the ability to self-administer has been a mandatory element to meet the threshold. A compelling example of this was given in the HBO’s (Sundance award-winning) film, *How to Die in Oregon*, by the story of 84-year old Ray Carny, who ultimately died in the hospital, physically unable to give himself the lethal cocktail, one of the requirements of the Oregon Death With Dignity law.[2] As a daughter of a man who unsuccessfully attempted to commit suicide (by self-starvation) after he became symptomatic with Huntington’s Disease,[3] and had to withstand a parade of physical and psychiatric horrors for another 20 years until his death (by “pneumonia”), I empathize enormously with Ms. Fleming’s desire for personal autonomy. As a lawyer, I can certainly understand the judicial wish to protect the public interest by protecting those who might be vulnerable by declining to relax the law. This comes from a concern that to do otherwise would begin a slide down what Yale Kamisar (among others) called the slippery slope to medical euthanasia, with its potential for abuses, such as those most notoriously exemplified by the Nazi experience. As a concluding commentary, I predict that no jury would convict Fleming’s 65-year-old partner, Tom Curran, notwithstanding the technical legal criminal liability and potential 14-year sentence (who would be unlikely to be prosecuted in the first place). This last is an educated guess, based upon cases against doctors and “civilians.” As to doctors, there are examples of grand juries that have declined to indict doctors – who are held to a higher standard of law – such as in New York’s case against hospice physician Dr. Timothy Quill in 1991, which precipitated a civil case that went to the United States Supreme Court, and that of Louisiana’s Dr. Anna Pou, who engaged in euthanasia of a number of elderly patients in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Likewise, trial juries have engaged in jury nullification (such as New Hampshire’s Dr. Hermann Sander in 1950, and the Kevorkian juries of 1994, and two more in 1996) and courts have declined to incarcerate (such as Winchester Crown Court in the 1992 case against Nigel Cox). Even in the most complicated of circumstances – such as Georgia’s Carol Carr, who shot two sons as they lay side-by-side in a nursing home, with end-stage Huntington’s Disease and most recently Arizona’s George Sanders, who received probation after shooting his MS-afflicted wife -- compassion for the “assister” has been the norm. I emphasize that these were in gun shooting cases (it should not make a difference that there is blood involved, but in reality it does). I suspect that Fleming’s purpose in going to court had little to do with the practicality of the law in action, rather than the law on the books. The first person through any door of activism is sure to get bloody, wheelchair or not. Fleming may be a physically disabled patient, but she is also unquestionably a vigorous activist. Her success, whether she realizes it or not, was in getting into that courtroom in the first place, as painful as the process of the litigation and as difficult the death trajectory.

[1] DDemetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD currently teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College, where she was named the 2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year. Her first book, Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America: The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press, 2012) (100 year study of US and UK doctors prosecuted for medical euthanasia/assisted suicide and role of meI dia) has been nominated for the2013 BSC Criminology Book Prize.  Her PhD, from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Law and Department of Sociology (dual registration), was awarded in 2009, based upon her dissertation of an ethnography entitled, The Politics of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A Comparative Case Study of Emerging Criminal Law and the Criminal Trials of Jack ‘Dr. Death’ Kevorkian, in which she studied the chief prosecuting attorneys/judges, juries, patient’s family members and the media, as well as the changes in law and court culture pertaining to Kevorkian. [2] Review by Demetra M. Pappas, How to Die in Oregon, HBO Documentary Films,” in The New York Resident/Resident Health (August 2011), p. 61 [3] Demetra M. Pappas, "Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Are Doctors' Duties when Following Patients' Orders a Bitter Pill to Swallow?", in G. Howarth and P. Jupp (eds.), Contemporary Issues in the Sociology of Death, Dying and Disposal, Macmillan, Inc. (1996).


Paradox and Progress: Islamic Feminism in Kuwait

Nickie Phillips


Crimcast sat down with Dr. Alessandra Gonzalez, John Jay College of Criminal Justice post-doctoral fellow and author of Islamic Feminism in Kuwait (2013), to discuss her book’s insightful glimpse into women’s rights in a Muslim national context.  Islamic feminism is a school of thought which aims to bolster women’s rights and participation in public life while grounded in an Islamic framework.  Dr. Gonzalez’s interviews with Kuwaiti women’s rights activists, religious scholars, and national leaders pointed to a number of interesting paradoxes which she describes in her book.  One is that when women recently got the right to vote, they often voted for conservative Islamist candidates— the same people who previously stood against the right to vote. What did your interviews find to explain the paradox of women voting for conservative candidates once they got the right to vote?

There are several possible explanations which are discussed in the book. The sociological explanations include demographic shifts of bedouin desert background Kuwaitis moving to urban spaces, where they bring their conservative cultural perspectives into their political participation which happen to favor conservative Islamists. There are also global factors that influence the resurgence of Islamic identity among youth across the Middle East, which are favoring political Islamists as bearers of cultural representation of Islamic identity in politics. Lastly, many of my more politically Liberal interviewees blamed a lack of experience in politics on first-time women voters for voting for Islamists who more or less represented the status quo.

What were some of the other paradoxes that your book describes?

Some of the other paradoxes explored in the book include: the fact that Western feminism has not taken root in Muslim hearts and minds; that veiled women are not shying away from public life but are in fact leading in several sectors including education, business, and now politics; that men as a whole are not oppressing women, but are in fact enabling Islamic feminism; and that the youth are both modern and traditional in their approach to women’s rights. These paradoxes emerged from my interviews and show the compatibility of Islam and an indigenous approach to women’s rights, as illustrated by activists in Kuwait.

The book explores the idea that Islam and women’s rights are not incompatible.  Is this an idea that you feel is popular in the Arabian Gulf today?

Absolutely. In my research I found that instead of a “clash of civilizations” scenario, that Kuwaiti youth approached the idea of feminism within Islam from what I call a “co-existence” model. The majority of the youth in my survey sample, both male and female, believed in gender equality and agreed that Islam was a source of motivation for them to fight for women’s rights.

Crimcast readers are interested in gender and violence.  How did your research subjects feel about women’s access to the criminal justice system and social support mechanisms in the event of a woman being the victim of domestic violence?  Has Kuwait made an effort to combat domestic violence?

Kuwait towers

Kuwait, like many of its neighbors, is responding to increasing deviations from their traditions regarding family life. Among them is the rise in divorce rate to above 30%, which leaves the society and government looking for reasons to address the high number of failing young marriages. It is possible that intolerance for domestic abuse is actually a positive reason for leaving a marriage, however more research needs to be done to determine what percentage of these marriages are actually failing as a response to abuse, versus other factors such as economics or personal incompatibilities. Many Kuwaiti women are also choosing not to marry in order to focus on their careers. This means a flooding of the labor market by highly qualified and educated women in a country where conservative family traditions prefer to hire men as family breadwinners over single women. Women’s access to the criminal justice system in Kuwait (not unlike women’s access to justice in the US) is an issue whether it is due to domestic abuse, divorce, or discriminatory hiring practices. Changes at the societal level need to be addressed at the level of legislation and many of the women’s rights activists in Kuwait are focusing on these issues.

What are you working on these days?  Will we see more work from you on the subject of Islamic feminism in the future?

I am working on several projects at the moment. Currently I am working on the Extremist Crime Database Project at John Jay College looking at theoretical approaches to female criminal involvement in ideological extremist groups in the US. I believe there is a window for us to understand women’s empowerment that fights violent extremism in our communities by also understanding how women engage in criminal activity themselves. It is in fact, the other side of the coin of female agency, where women are free to seek power through legitimate or illegitimate means for a greater ideological belief. Next year, I will be continuing my work on Islamic Feminism as a James Madison Institute Post-Doctoral Fellow at Princeton University.

Dr. González is currently a post-doctoral Research Associate at John Jay College, CUNY and a non-resident Research Fellow at the Institute for the Studies of religion at Baylor University. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in Sociology from Baylor University and received a B.A. in Sociology and Policy Studies from Rice University. Dr. González has publications in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion, and an op-ed on Islamic Feminism in the Dallas Morning News. She has presented her research at the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy's Conference on "The Rights of Women in Islam," the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies, the Dialogue of Civilizations Conference hosted by the Institute for Interfaith Dialogue in Houston, the Gulf Research Conference at the University of Exeter, and various other academic settings.

Go here, for Dr. Gonzalez's interview about Islamic Feminism in Kuwait on the Research on Religion podcast.

Go here, for a review of Islamic Feminism in Kuwait in the journal Contemporary Islam.

Should “Dying with Dignity” be a Crime? The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate

Nickie Phillips


Crimcast sat down with Dr. Demetra Pappas, St. Francis College Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice professor and author of The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate (2012), to discuss her book’s thorough legal and historical exploration into this important topic. Her book (which was recently nominated for the 2013 British Society of Criminology book prize) documents the cases that contributed to the rising euthanasia movement in England and the U.S. in the early twentieth century and follows the movement through critical decades, such as the 1950s, and the rise of the assisted suicide debate in the 1990’s, along with the infamous Jack Kevorkian cases of the 1990s. Her tour de force concludes with the current state of euthanasia and assisted suicide related law in light of more recent cases such as Terry Schiavo, and the latest legislation from U.S. states that have considered whether to decriminalize assisted suicide. Pappas does not take a side in the debate, but rather puts her legal and analytical skills to work in providing a fair-minded and informative account of all the considerations, arguments, and developments that have shaped the controversy.

You describe the early history or euthanasia-related law as one that put doctors in the position of final arbiters in complex and heart-wrenching decisions about euthanasia. Why was that the early trend?

Unlike the contemporary view of medicine, in which patients are seen as active participants in their health care decisions and treatment, during the rise of modern medicine during the late 1800s and early 1900s, doctors were viewed as all-knowing. They had powers to relieve pain through emerging anesthetics and pharmaceuticals, powers to cure previously fatal infectious diseases (largely due to the discovery of antibiotics, though the same argument applies to cancer and chemotherapy treatments) and to, if necessary “heal with steel” by surgically removing cancerous (and other) tumors. This confluence of factors gave doctors extremely high social (as well as professional) status and public esteem, which has been likened by some (both positively and negatively) to gods. Patients, on the other hand, were passive (and often uninformed) recipients of treatments, seldom consulted, and certainly not in the partnerships or even consumeristic social arrangements that we see in the medical system today. Doctors had a great deal of unfettered discretion in treatment, in the early part of the century, with an as-yet undeveloped theory (or legal reality) of informed consent). In what was an overwhelmingly paternalistic Anglo-American society (with highly educated and socially prominent class of physicians), doctors were all but sole arbiters in cases where medical euthanasia occurred. In the event that a doctor was somehow held to account for medical euthanasia, Anglo-American legal theory regarded criminal law constructs of necessity and duress (as mitigation, but also informally used as a jury nullification technique) in cases of terminally ill patients in what we now would refer to as end-stage illness.

The book puts forth the argument that the centrality of doctors then shifted to a focus on the patient as a consumer of medical services. Tell us why this shift occurred by the end of the twentieth century. What about the role of patients’ families or next-of-kin?

The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate by Demetra Pappas

I love this question – it puts a great frame on the overall issue. During the 20th century, informed consent came into medical practice and legal requirement. That precipitated the beginning of the shift, I believe. In addition, the medical technology which can keep a heart beating, lungs breathing and tubal feeding in cases where a patient is in a persistent vegetative state spurred the advent of cases which many colloquially refer to as pulling the plug. These started with the Quinlan case in the 1970s; not many people know that the Quinlans were devout Catholics, their efforts were really very brave and ahead of their time and started a trend resulting in the United States Supreme Court decision in the Cruzan case (in 1991, ironically the year Kevorkian started his practice and New York’s Dr. Timothy Quill, discussed in chapter 6, wrote his controversial New England Journal of Medicine essay, which resulted in his brief prosecution – in which the Grand Jury declined to indict him – after which he was part of the extraordinary pair of cases that went to the United States Supreme Court in 1997). So families were the backbone of the PVS cases, by definition, though also involved in the euthanasia and assisted suicide cases (usually as consenting or being called as witnesses).

You report that the two most active euthanasia doctors (Jack Kevorkian and Harold Shipman) disproportionately aided women in dying. Why do you think this is the case? Is euthanasia a gendered phenomenon?

I am going to answer in reverse, if I may. In Washington State (which I discuss in chapter 8) and Oregon (which I discuss in chapter 7), where there are legal procedural mechanisms for “death with dignity” (in fact, physician assisted suicide by prescription for Seconol or similar barbiturates), the statistics for who avails themselves of consultation and/or of death with dignity are very close to 50-50 (with a 10 per cent or so variance from year to year). Of course, procedural mechanisms require a whole host of protocols to be followed. These include (but are not limited to), repeated and enduring voluntary requests (at least one in writing), consent procedures of imminently terminally ill patients, outside consulting physicians to verify the terminal illness and projected lifespan, psychiatric/psychological consultation protections of the patient, encouraged family participation in the decision making process, residency requirements (in Oregon), documentation that patients have been informed of other alternatives to medical death with dignity. With Kevorkian, patients sought him out, and there was a study in which Michigan Medical Examiner Dr. Dragovic found that some 72 per cent of Kevorkian’s patients (or clients or victims, depending upon your perspective) were women. Kevorkian knew most of his patients/clients/victims/decedents for very short times (some as little as a couple of days) as his practice increased and escalated, and I note that the patients sought out the former pathologist for the express purpose of ending their lives. As an aside, the criminal justice system actually brought to trial cases involving three male decedents (indeed, both the first and the last cases tried involved male patients) and four female decedents, closer to the 50-50ish statistic of the Oregon and Washington patients. That said, Oakland County prosecutor Richard Thompson brought many more charges, which his successor David Gorcyca dismissed prior to the infamous 60 Minutes “Death by Doctor” broadcast of Tom Hyde’s medical euthanasia by Kevorkian (which resulted in Kevorkian’s sole conviction). With Harold Shipman, although he was beloved by his patients, he was viewed as a true serial killer, who simply decided to (and did) administer lethal doses to patients. One might ultimately posit the theory that whereas roughly equal numbers of male and female patients may want “death with dignity” (i.e. to end their own lives) a disproportionate number of women (especially of earlier generations) looked to (overwhelmingly male) doctors and gave them control (as with Kevorkian) or access (as with the vulnerable women in the Shipman cases). It will be interesting to see what the next several decades hold, with generations of empowered women who take as a given (we hope) the idea that they, not a third party male (doctor or not) are in control of their lives, their destinies and their fates. Hmm, another book may be waiting to happen!

At the time the book was published, you felt that the trend in Anglo-American law was toward decriminalization of assisted suicide. Have there been any new developments since your book was published that support your conclusion? Has anything unexpected happened?

There have been a number of developments, some of which regarded decriminalization, some of which regarded mitigation (compassionate treatment of criminal defendants) and yet also in the move or effort toward criminalization. I will outline a very few here. Just last week (read, the first week of April 2013), Connecticut failed in its attempt to become the fourth state to have legal assisted suicide or death with dignity, when members of the state legislature announced that the bill would fail to come out of committee, citing time constraints (a way of tabling something). Less than one month ago, in an example of what seminal legal theorist Yale Kamisar (1950s, chapter 3) would have noted as a case of the law in practice being as malleable as the law on the books is absolute, in Pheonix, Arizona, 86-year-old George Sanders received a sentence of probation (notwithstanding the originating murder charges) for killing his ailing wife, who had been afflicted with multiple sclerosis. The prosecutor, the judge and the couple’s grandchildren were all in agreement about this. This reminded me of my discussion of Carol Carr (chapter 8), who shot her two Huntington’s Disease afflicted sons as they lay side by side in a nursing home; Carr was allowed to plead guilty to assisted suicide, which no stretch of the sociological or criminological imagination (let alone black letter law) would have allowed for. On the other hand, there is a legislative moment to criminalize assisted suicide in Montana. In another example, Connecticut is now considering legalizing assisted suicide – a step beyond decriminalization, whether de jure (as in Montana’s Baxter decision) or de facto (as in Arizona’s compassionate treatment of Sanders).

What are you working on these days? Are you continuing to study euthanasia or have you moved on to new controversial topics?

[While] I am continuing to give conference papers (I just gave one at a medical humanities conference about the euthanasia of King George V, which was the subject of chapter 2 of the book, and got great questions inviting me to tie in to other, more recent events, the result of which is that I feel another article coming on!) and to expand into other areas from the book (as with a law school colloquium yesterday comparing the medical and legal deviance of Jack Kevorkian and Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray) and write more articles about euthanasia and assisted suicide[, t] However, there is no question that I needed to step away from the book a bit. This I did in two ways. First, I am continuing to develop a line of research on anti-stalking movements and mechanisms (I won a prize in 1997 for my ethnography and article on the effort to redraft Minnesota’s anti-stalking law after the Supreme Court struck it down in 1996, the article is "When a Stalker's Hot Pursuit Turns Coldly Calculated Chase in Minnesota: How Specific Need Expressions of Intent Be or Do Actions Speak Louder Than Words?", 20 Hamline L. Rev. 371, 1997). I have had a paper on “The Stalked Student: Two Unanticipated Qualitative Studies, Across a River, a State Line, a Decade,” accepted for this year’s American Society of Criminology conference. In addition, I am developing a line of research in visual sociology concentrated on hurricane and natural disaster recovery (my student's work on the visual sociology project is published here: "The Sociology Assignment: When Visual Images of Hurricane Sandy Got Personal," Note by Dr. Demetra M. Pappas, Post and Images by students Kelsey Papanicolaou and Leah Vanden Bosch, Post and Captions by Valia Haskopoulos,, March 17, 2013 (pedagogical methodology, visual sociology, natural disasters). In a different vein, I write theater reviews and travel and cultural pieces, my most recent theater piece (which was fun for Broaday, and more serious for the Off-Broadway) can be found hereManilowon Broadway and Forever Dusty, which appeared in the March 2013 issue of The New York Resident (find the article by"turning the pages" to page 83). Each set of interests somehow seems to inform the other and I more often than not seem to find common threads over time in juxtaposition and comparative work , such as last fall, when I reviewed The Exonerated for its 10th anniversary run at New York's Culture Project, and then showed my students the film and devised a midterm exercise and THEN did an ongoing string of pieces for Crimcast (I think in horse racing terminology, that would go beyond a tri-fecta to a multi-fecta!). And, on the side, I am working on developing a course in dramaturgy and the sociological imagination, as well as criminal justice representations in dramaturgy. But I have to admit, having the chance to travel and write about cultural and culinary experiences in other locales, such as on a recent trip to Puerto Rico (after which I also wrote up a little known pre-revolutionary prison fort dungeon for Crimcast!) l is a great way to get my head out of the clouds.

In closing, thanks so much to Crimcast for the interest in my work and the opportunity to reflect (and project!) in this interview!

Carol Tilley on Wertham's Scholarship, Social Science, and Archival Research

Nickie Phillips

CrimCast welcomes Carol Tilley, assistant professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois. Professor Tilley recently published "Seducing the Innocent: Fredric Wertham and the Falsifications that Helped Condemn Comics" in Information & Culture: A Journal of History.You are one of the few scholars who have gained access to Frederic Wertham's papers and other personal archives, now housed at the Library of Congress. Can you tell us what prompted your interest in the project and how were you able to gain access to this vast amount of information?

For the past eight years or so, I’ve been studying how librarians and other reading guidance professionals responded to comics captivating influence on young readers during the 1940s and 1950s. Even though Wertham was not the primary focus of my work, he is someone difficult to ignore when thinking about comics during these years. Anti-comics sentiment preceded Wertham’s interest in the topic by nearly a decade, but for the last few years of the 1940s and throughout the 1950s, he was the figurehead for the movement that sought to restrict the sale of comics to America’s youth.

Wertham was something of a packrat too, as there are more than two hundred boxes of his materials preserved at the Library of Congress (LOC). Although not all of these materials are related to his work on comics, many of them are. I was curious to learn about his correspondence with librarians, teachers, parents, and other folks who were interested in children’s reading and welfare. So, my initial reason for using the materials had little to do with Seduction of the Innocent (Rinehart, 1954), the book about comics for which Wertham is popularly and infamously remembered.

Although Wertham died in 1981 and his materials were transferred to the LOC soon afterwards, his papers have been open for research use since mid-2010. Before that time Wertham’s literary executor controlled access to those materials. Barty Beaty, professor of English at the University of Calgary, was the only person granted significant access to the materials. His book Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture (U of Mississippi Press, 2005) makes use of the collection. James Gilbert, professor of History at the University of Maryland, also made use of Wertham’s papers for his book A Cycle of Outrage: America’s Reaction to the Juvenile Delinquent in the 1950s (Oxford, 1988). Gilbert had access to these materials while Wertham was still alive.

You mentioned in the article that many scholars were long suspicious about Wertham's methodology. What was your most surprising finding?

Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent has hallmarks of suspicious social science. It lacks a bibliography, for instance, and contains assertions that are often grand. Take, for instance, his claim that teenage drug users were comics readers. Well, nearly all young people read comics at that time, so this claim is like stating today that teenage drug users use Facebook. One of Wertham’s contemporaries, Bertram Beck, a social worker who led the Special Juvenile Delinquency Project for the United States Children’s Bureau, wrote to the doctor a month after Seduction’s release, saying,

Your treatment of contrary evidence and, in fact, anyone who disagrees seems to me to be as unscientific as you demonstrate the defenders of the comic book have been. [April 16, 1954, Box 123, Folder 7, Wertham papers].

The comics creator and scholar Stephen Bissette more recently took issue with Wertham’s method and presentation. In Teen Angels & New Mutants: Rick Veitch’s Bratpack and the Art, Karma, and Commerce of Killing Sidekicks (Black Coat Press, 2011), Bissette points to Wertham’s “circularity of logic” (p. 67) along with the absence of context, “methods, footnotes, or attribution” (p. 68).

Despite these and other critiques, I was astounded to discover numerous instances where Wertham seemed to disregard an even more basic idea about presenting evidence—that you don’t ‘doctor’ it. Here’s a fairly typical example.

In Seduction, Wertham wrote about a girl (pp. 40-41), who according to her mother, read love comics all the time. The text in the book read,

“This girl I found to be an expert on love comics. She told me she bought some, ‘but mostly I trade them.’ I asked her about stealing in love comics. She laughed, ‘Oh, they do it often.’”

Wertham’s notes [Box 109, Folder 12] portrayed a somewhat different scenario. For instance, he learned from the mother that the girl doesn’t read as many comics as she once did because they now have a television. The notes also stated,

"Patient says she reads love comics, 'if I have any.' 'I buy one once in a while, but mostly I trade them.' Titles: True Story, Superman or something like that; sometimes I see Crime Does Not Pay; Love For Two, Romance, that is all. The story where somebody steals is in Crime Does Not Pay. In the Love Comics they sometimes steal...My mother says she does not want me to read comic books because they interfere with my school work and she just don't want me to read them."

In other examples, Wertham turned a single teenage boy into several different people, borrowed phrases and ideas from colleagues and acquaintances, and exaggerated or distorted evidence. For instance, Wertham recounted the experiences of one boy: “‘I read the comic books to learn how you can get money. I read about thirty a week. I read Crime Does Not Pay, Crime and Punishment, Penalty, Wanted. That is all I can think of” (p. 73). Yet, in the original case notes [Box 109, Folder 16], the boy told Wertham he read only five comics a week.

You state that Wertham "manipulated, overstated, compromised, and fabricated evidence" to support his contention that comic books contributed to maladjustment and deviant behavior among children. Further, you describe Wertham's conclusions as being driven by a rhetorical strategy to bolster support for his position. Yet, you acknowledge in the article that you are ultimately conflicted about Wertham. Can you tell us more about that?

My dilemma is simple: as abhorrent as I find Wertham’s representations of evidence, I believe he wanted to help people who he believed were vulnerable, whether because of their age, their race, their socioeconomic status, or something else. For instance, Wertham was an early advocate for racial integration, and his testimony provided support for the overturn of school segregation in Delaware. Wertham’s testimony as part of Delaware case helped effect a positive outcome in 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education. Does his goodness excuse his errors? Certainly some comics readers, creators, and fans will say ‘no.’

Your article has received quite a bit of media attention. Were you surprised that your work would receive so much attention from the mainstream press?

I was indeed surprised! Seduction of the Innocent is nearly sixty years old and Wertham has been thoroughly lambasted in comics culture. At this point few people familiar with Wertham and his anti-comics work can feign shock that his research was troubled, but I’m pleased to offer some substantive evidence to support this long-standing assumption. Plus from a scholar’s perspective, it’s gratifying to know that not only are more than a handful of people reading your work, but that it’s getting discussed in places like the New York Times and

Can you tell us about any projects that you are currently working on? Should we look forward to more research from the Wertham archives from you?

Eventually you’ll see more from me that draws on the Wertham archives. I’ve got a chapter out soon on the use of comics in language arts classrooms during the 1940s and 1950s, a paper on early (1930s and 1940s) reading promotion efforts in National / DC comics, and a chapter forthcoming on how young comics readers responded to comics’ critics such as Wertham. My bigger ongoing project is writing a history of young people’s readership of comics from the 1930s through the 1950s. If you’re interested, you can keep up with my comics research via my webpage or via Twitter (@CarolGSLIS).


This is the second of our 5-part series appearing throughout 2013 focusing on the often game-changing discoveries that come out of archival work in the realm of police, courts, and corrections.

"Criminal" Leopards: Leopard Poaching in South Africa and India, a By-Product of Human-Wildlife Conflict

Nickie Phillips

Leopards are killed in South Africa and India in direct response to leopard-human conflicts, primarily leopard predation on livestock (with the occasional leopard attack on a human). Farmers in these areas are often at odds with wildlife as they struggle to make a living while losing large parts of their stock to predators (Butler, 2000). They feel the easiest way to solve the problem of human-wildlife conflict is to shoot leopards, regardless of whether or not they are livestock eaters. These farmers would not consider themselves poachers, but by killing leopards without a permit, in countries where these cats are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and cannot be killed without one, they are, by definition, “poaching” leopards.

Having interviewed farmers in a rural area of the Western Cape Province of South Africa two years ago, I have come across many who characterize leopards as “criminal” and “blood-thirsty” for daring to attack their property. Many also complain that “they were here first” and “never had problems with leopards before now.” These comments, and the retaliatory killings of leopards that sometimes follow them, are prime examples of how humans and wildlife are now frequently clashing over resources because of the rapid industrialization of biodiversity-rich countries and their exponential population growth, leaving little room for wild land and the large wildlife populations or complex ecosystems they support.

In doing my dissertation research, I recently came across an article published in National Geographic by George Schaller that summed up the matter very artfully (Schaller, 2011, December). Schaller describes how, in the 1960s and 1970s, as a biologist, he did not think “the wilderness would so quickly become exhaustible” (p. 90). The focus then was on creating large protected areas where species could be conserved in large numbers. He argues that most countries now lack the wild space for such endeavors. Most reserves are small and cannot support large enough populations of big cats to insure that inbreeding, disease, or a random event will not wipe out these populations in one fell swoop. The focus now needs to be on creating “conservation landscapes” rather than protected areas: spaces where humans and leopards co-habit with minimal conflict while leopards travel in and out of reserves through wild corridors in human-dominated landscapes.


Two main obstacles remain to the creation of such landscapes: the willingness of locals to protect their wildlife and the motivation of governments to invest resources in conservation. For governments to invest more resources, though, they need to feel the pressure of the public’s demand for wildlife conservation.This means educating the public, especially those who suffer from human-wildlife conflicts to accept the costs of co-habitating. Past research has shown that compensation schemes for livestock owners whose livestock have been killed by predators work in the short run, but ultimately fail because they are financially unsustainable and do not motivate farmers to protect their livestock more effectively. Better methods tend to be programs that reward locals for healthy predator populations in their communities, empowering them to practice better husbandry techniques and report poachers (Mishra, et. al., 2003).

My research focuses on creating mapping models of where leopard poaching takes place and what environmental factors make a retaliatory killing more likely to occur in that particular area.I am trying to determine if the following environmental factors result in more retaliatory leopard killings:

  • Geographic overlap between human activities and leopard habitat;
  • Higher leopard numbers in an area due to better habitat conditions (more vegetation for stalking prey, milder climates, lower elevation);
  • Poor leopard habitat with leopards living there for lack of other territory;
  • Fluctuations in rainfall resulting in lower prey availability in certain areas.

The reality of limited conservation resources is that focusing efforts on the hardest hit areas is crucial. The results of my research will hopefully provide conservationists with some guiding principles of where human-leopard conflict is most likely to occur and trigger poaching. They can then apply their methods, including some situational crime prevention methods like reducing provocations (i.e. livestock predation), to prevent future leopard killings and rally community support for predator conservation.


Julie Viollaz is a doctoral student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the CUNY Graduate Center. She is currently working on her dissertation focusing on cases of human-leopard conflict and retaliatory leopard killings in South Africa and India.  She is also conducting a study of art theft in the United States from 2000-2008 to determine what artworks are most at risk and how to prevent their theft using situational crime prevention methods.  In her free time, she is preparing for the inline speed skating national championships this summer and singing at the Juilliard School.

green criminology

This is the second in a three-part series on green criminology this month in recognition of Earth Day (April 22).