The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison

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Jeffrey Reiman, author of The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, first published his book in 1979; it is now in its sixth edition, and he has continued to revise it as he keeps up on criminal justice statistics and other trends in the system. Reiman originally wrote his book after teaching for seven years at the School of Justice (formerly the Center for the Administration of Justice), which is a multidisciplinary, criminal justice education program at American University in Washington, D.C. He drew heavily from what he had learned from his colleagues at that university. Reiman is the William Fraser McDowell Professor of Philosophy at American University, where he has taught since 1970. He has written numerous books on political philosophy, criminology, and sociology.

Reiman states his thesis in the Introduction. He claims that the goal of the American criminal justice system is not to eliminate crime—or even to achieve justice—but to project to the people an image of the idea that the threat of crime eminates from the poor. The system must "maintain" a large population of poor criminals, and to this end, it must not reduce or eliminate the crimes that poor people commit. When crime declines, it is not because of our criminal justice policies, but in spite of them. In testing this idea, Reiman had his students construct a correctional system that would maintain a stable and visible group of criminals, rather than eliminating or reducing crime, and they suggested the following: enact laws against drug abuse, prostitution, and gambling;

give police, prosecutors, and judges broad discretion in deciding who gets arrested, charged, and sentenced to prison; make the prison experience demeaning;
do not train prisoners for jobs after release;
deprive offenders of certain rights for the rest of their lives. The system that emerges is what we have today.

In the chapter, "Crime Control in America," Reiman suggests that the system has been designed...
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