Criminology and the Criminal Justice System
White Collar and Political Crimes
I am a criminologist and I have been hired to assist the Farm Workers Union. The Union is making allegations that each year thousands of farm workers are sickened by exposure to pesticides used on the farms where they work. Exposure is said to occur when the workers are in the fields and helicopters spray the nearby fields. However, the industry is aware of the problem, but continues the practice. The government considers the problem of pesticide drift a statistically small one compared to the total amount of pesticide applications. It is my job to help ease the situation regarding the Union’s frustration at the apparent collusion between the industry and government. The questions that I will be addressing are whether or not the farm industry is committing a crime, why or why not? Is the government committing a crime? Why or why not? In my observation if I discover that no crime was committed then I will address as to where the farm workers will be able to obtain relief from. I then will discuss the historical success of other employees working in unsafe conditions and if they have gained any kind of relief from their past exposure.
In the above situation the law tries to balance between the need to protect the workers and the fact that the jobs they chose are inherently dangerous. Where there may be criminal liability is not for the government directly but for the government agents who make decisions or furnish reports upon which decisions and policy are made that are flawed and deliberately hide facts. There you have criminal acts of an individual for fraud, bribery, and abuse of power. It is the job of the criminologist to find out what the problem is and how can we fix it in order for this type of situation to prevent it from happening again. It is in the best interest of the accused to have their problems solved and let it be known as to who is at fault for the crimes, whether it be the farm industry or even the government. In order for the problem to be solved in relation to this week’s readings and discussion there needs to be some discussion as to what white color crimes and political crimes are and how they relate to the situation.
Some early critics argued that behavior that does not violate criminal law should not be considered a crime, no matter how harmful it may be. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) White collar crimes are 'the art of deliberate deception for unlawful gain' (2009) which is more commonly known as Fraud. White color crimes are crimes committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation. White-Collar Crime is illegal acts such as fraud, concealment, or a violation of trust that are not dependent upon the threat of physical force or violence. These acts are committed by individuals and organizations to obtain money, property, or services; to avoid the payment or loss of money or services; or to secure a personal, political, or business advantage. There are several types of white color crimes; such as economic crimes, financial institution fraud, government fraud, and public corruption. Historically, a political crime refers to a conspiracy, and the actual deed of challenges to political rulers or sacred authority. One could say that all crimes are political crimes because all crimes by definition violate criminal laws passed by legislative bodies. A political crime is one involving overt acts or omissions (where there is a duty to act), which prejudice the interests of the state, its government or the political system. It is to be distinguished from state crime when it is the states that break both their own criminal laws and/or public international law (Ross, 2000).. The State's responsibility is to its people and its mandate is the constitution and any threat, real or perceived to the constitution and the way of life of the people it serves is considered a political crime. The types of political crimes are terrorism, treason, and sedition.
Based on the explanation of white color crimes I would say that the farm industry is guilty of breaching the trust of the farm workers. Is it not the duty of the industry to look after the welfare of the farm workers, to ensure that working conditions are safe and do not put them in any form of danger or risk? Pesticide spraying can and should be regulated and scheduled to ensure that the farm workers are not exposed to this type of substance while doing their jobs. The Union was concerned so they reached out and expressed their concerns for immediate actions to the Power Elite of the Industry to take place in order to ensure the protection of its members. Since pesticide spraying by a helicopter is controlled and managed by individuals and groups, it is no doubt possible to be able to regulate and install measures so that farm workers will not be faced with risky exposure to hazardous pesticides. It is the right and the responsibility of the industry to ensure that this type of incident does not happen again and all the preventative measures are in place. Because the Farm industry ignored the concerns and pleas of the union, they indeed committed a white collar crime.
There have been proven reports over and again that numerous accounts of cheating within the private and government agencies. Those professionals tend to manipulate results, opinions, events and outcomes. Based on the situation from past experiences it shows that the government chosoe to ignore the pleas of the workers. The pesticide drift problem is not significant enough to warrant any form of intervention based on the senses of the government. If the union can prove and document that the diseases and illnesses that their members are suffering are due to exposure to pesticides, then it is the duty of the government to immediately intervene and look into the issue. According to the allegations, the government is guilty of the act of omission even when there is valid need to act, which falls in the category as a political crime. It is possible that only the individuals responsible for 'dealing with' the union workers are guilty; it is also possible that their act of omission was motivated by corruption if they had made certain arrangements with the farm industry to keep the pesticide applications as is without considering its effect on the farm workers. If there are allegations then there needs to be a further investigation. If the government chooses to ignore the situation, then it is guilty of a political crime.
When employees are injured or affected due to negligence, faulty manufacturing & unsafe working conditions, as long as the conditions fall within the statute, victims are in a position to file a case against the company, organization or industry that are putting them at risk. When more than one individual is affected and want to fight the injustice in order to affect the status qou for change in conditions and policies relating to the conditions they want changed, they can file a class action suit. In this case, the Class action suit will be filed under the heading of personal injury due to exposure to hazardous materials. Class action lawsuits are suits filed on behalf of a class of plaintiffs, all of whom have been wronged by the same defendant. The Union members affected can sue the Industry and plead a political crime case against the government agency responsible for regulating pesticide drift in a class action suit related to the personal injury suit to be filed against the farm industry. There could be far more specialized approaches to what legal action the Union could take but so far, with the allegations presented, this seems to be the most viable and effective approach. Based on the current situation there are related cases of unsafe working conditions based on history can relate to the class action suit filed by organized workers against one of the US' largest kosher slaughterhouse. The workers allege illegal working arrangements, unpaid labour and ill treatment. An important government agency that has the responsibility to look into the problem of the farm workers is the Occupational Safety & Health review Commission under the Department of Labor. A landmark case, The Secretary of Labor vs. Summit Contractors, Inc. (2007) is a landmark case that identifies responsibility among contractors and business owners in relation to who must be held responsible for the safety of workers and assurance of safe working conditions. It can apply at any workplace where there are contingent, temporary, or leased employees. In case of the farm workers, they can use this case as precedent to demand action against pesticide drift from the farms & companies responsible for the pesticide applications. Under Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the Farm Industry is responsible to ensure that risks like pesticide drift are addressed especially when workers have valid undeniable evidence of its effects.
In conclusion I have discussed the scenario where the Farm Workers Union was making allegations that each year thousands of farm workers are sickened by exposure to pesticides used on the farms where they work. The exposure had occurred when the workers were in the fields and helicopters sprayed the nearby fields. The industry was aware of the problem, but still continued the practice without regards to the workers in the fields. The government considers the problems of pesticide drift to be a statistically small one compared to the total amount of pesticide applications that were applied. I discussed the situation regarding the Union’s frustration at the apparent collusion between the industry and government. The questions that were answered were that the farm industry was guilty of breaching the trust of the farm workers and thus committing a crime. That the government was guilty of the act of omission even when there is valid need to act which in fact committing a crime as well. Based on the evidence presented it is evident that there is in fact crimes that were committed. The farm workers were able to obtain relief from the attacks on their fields from the pesticide sprays. The historical success of other employees working in unsafe conditions and if they have gained any kind of relief from their past exposure has taught the current workers to learn from the past in order to move forward.
Barkan, Steven E. Criminology. A Sociological Understanding, Political Crime. Fourth Edition.
Chapter 13. copyright © 2009 Pearson Education.
Ross, Jeffrey Ian. (2000), Varieties of State Crime and its Control, Monsey: Criminal Justice Press. Gordon Marshall. "political crime." A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998. Retrieved September 21, 2010. http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O88politicalcrime.html http://www.fbi.gov/whitecollarcrime.htm