Review of the Roots of Youth Violence: Literature Reviews

Volume 5, Chapter 14:

Critical Perspectives on Violence13

To this point, the research literature that has been presented for readers has approached the issue of violence from more traditional (non-critical) perspectives, which tend to focus largely on those acts that are deemed to be deviant (whether legally, socially, or morally) and/or where the offender is motivated to willfully inflict harm on a person or persons (Turpin and Kurtz, 1997).14 Mainstream studies have usually adopted a positivistic approach to the problem of crime and violence that places an overwhelming focus on the nature of the individual offender (Stanko, 1995). Biological research into the causes of violence, for instance, inquires into the genetic make-up, chemical or hormone levels, and brain functioning of identified violent males and females (see Fishbein, 1990). Psychological approaches might scrutinize the differential impact of anxieties or aggression fuelled by inconsistent, harsh, or neglectful parenting, loss of parent or significant other(s), or childhood experiences of physical or sexual abuse experienced by identified offenders (see Bernard, 1993). Or, sociological theories may try to estimate the prevalence and incidence of violence and interrogate how the occurrence of violence is affected by the attachment of individuals to a (presumed) civil society (see Sampson and Wilson, 1995). While this literature has certainly deepened our understanding of forms of violence, especially at the interpersonal level, it is largely premised on research that treats violence in a way that suggests the phenomenon is clearly understood within a generic class of behaviours – yet no such concept exists (Jackman, 2002). Critical scholars from a wide range of disciplines, including criminology and sociology, have subsequently begun producing articles/research that seek to extend the parameters of what we have conventionally viewed as violence (Cover, 1986; Epp, 1996; Farmer, 2004; Jackman, 2002; Sarat and Kearns, 1997; Turpin and Kurtz, 1997; Watkinson, 1997).

Known for its opposition to existing social structures that produce systems of inequality, critical criminology/sociology approaches the notion of crime or violence from a completely different perspective that has, ultimately, contributed to our understanding about a very complex phenomenon. The work of these scholars has produced a body of rigorous literature attempting to either construct broader working definitions of violence and/or to draw linkages between various forms of “official” or “legitimate” violence and acts of violence at the interpersonal level. This chapter provides a brief look at some of the critical scholarship that has emerged in recent years, from across academic disciplines, which can enhance our understanding of how violence can be analyzed from a macro- and micro-level perspective.

Although critical theorists are firmly grounded in Marxist and other radical schools of thought, the discipline has developed further by adopting elements from other theoretical traditions and ideological frameworks, including conflict theory, interactionism, postmodernism, and contemporary feminism (Wright and Friedrichs, 1998). Often used as an umbrella term to capture a number of different theoretical arguments, such as left realism, radical criminology, critical race theory and peacemaking criminology, critical scholars may articulate arguments in different ways, but are united in that they all place emphasis on the primacy of class relations when discussing the issue of crime and justice. For example, conflict theorists hypothesize that crime stems from differences in economic wealth, a clash of cultures, or from the outcome of symbolic and instrumental struggles over status, ideology, morality, religion, race, and ethnicity. Conflict criminologists, like Sellin (1938) and Quinney (1970), would argue that some groups become dominant by gaining control of key resources and, as a result, these groups are able to criminalize the behaviour of those deviating from their own cultural standards and behavioural norms. Similarly, radical criminologists have argued that crime is an endemic product of the class and patriarchal nature of advanced industrial societies (Young, 1997). Left realists, on the other hand, believe that while conventional crime must be taken seriously, crime generally must be understood in terms of the complex interaction between the state, the offender, the victim, and the general public, or between macro- and micro- level phenomena (DeKeseredy and Schwartz, 1996; Young, 1997).

More recent contributions from feminist and critical race scholars have brought other critiques of mainstream theories to the forefront. As Daly and Maher (1998: 2) highlight, feminist theorists have chastized criminologists for failing to consider gender differences or for characterizing women in sexist ways, and have, in turn, produced research documenting the experiences of women as lawbreakers, victims, and workers in the criminal justice system. Lately, scholars and activists in this camp have set out to problematize the term “women” as a unified category, and to acknowledge the fact that women’s experiences are, in part, constructed by legal and criminological discourses (ibid; Stanko, 1985). Conversely, critical race theory has provided a growing number of scholars with the opportunity to produce scholarship that has sought to expose the ways in which social, political, and legal practices in North America not only inform how institutions in our societies are governed, but also how, in some scenarios, they contribute significantly to some of the negative outcomes that arise as they pertains to the lives and experiences of racially oppressed peoples in these same spaces (Lynn and Parker, 2006: 261). For example, critical race theorists largely believe that American courts are perpetuating racial subordination by refusing to address the various forms of systemic racism that exists and is hiding behind the slogan of colour-blind justice (Gotanda, 1991; Matsuda et al., 1993).

Critical criminologists tend to share a number of general assumptions, including: (1) that both crime and the criminal law are shaped by the structure of the political economy, with particular emphasis on the importance of class, ethnicity, race, and gender; and (2) that the predominately repressive approach of the state is generally ineffective as a response to the “crime problem,” and perpetuates various forms of discrimination and inequitable justice (see Einstadler and Henry, 1995). Considered by many as a humanistic perspective, critical criminology focuses on how inequality and power impact upon and reflect lawmaking, lawbreaking, victimization, reactions to crime, and social harm. In particular, theorists in this camp are concerned with the manner in which structural forces, cultural ideologies, and social processes create, sustain, and exacerbate social problems such as militarism, racism, sexism, poverty, state and corporate violence, criminal injustice, and war (see Lynch and Michalowski, 2006). Finally, critical scholars propose responses to the problem of crime and injustice by advocating for restorative, democratic, and peacemaking approaches rather than crime control models that rely on repression, retribution, and violence. Some of the areas where critical scholars have enhanced our knowledge around the issue of violence have been in advocating for broader, more encompassing definitions; highlighting acts of violence engaged in by powerful elites and/or the state, including the concept of law’s violence (Barak, 1991; Sarat, 1999; Sarat and Kearns, 1995); and by exploring whether a relationship exists between the causes of violence at the micro- and macro-level (Coady, 1986; Jackman, 2002; Turpin and Kurtz, 1997).

Scholars such as Barak (2003), Jackman (2002), and Stanley (2007) have often argued that traditional criminology has not fully explored the various manifestations of violence that occur in contemporary societies on a daily basis. For example, the Concise Oxford Dictionary (1999) defines violence as the unlawful exercise of physical force. Similarly, Olweus (1993) confines the concept of violence to the mere use of physical force in his work. He defines violent behaviour as aggressive behaviour where the actor or perpetrator uses his or her own body as an object (including a weapon) to inflict (relatively serious) injury or discomfort upon an individual. This is a trend that many social scientists have followed – relying on individualistic conceptions of violence that depend heavily on legal statutes that privilege the problem of random violence at the expense of other manifestations (Brownstein, 2000; Stanko, 2003). In fact, it can be argued that criminologists/sociologists have continuously categorized various types of violence as being either “legitimate” or “illegitimate” in nature, and have subsequently tended to (over) examine incidents like murder, assault, sexual violence, armed robbery, and drug- or gang-related activities (Barak, 2003). So, while extant research has well-documented the acts of criminal violence, most of the theories dominating the social sciences literature have tried to explain this complex phenomenon by focusing on the abnormality of the individual, community or culture (Stanko, 1985). This limited focus on physical acts, critical criminologists suggest, has merely served to impair and stifle our understanding of violence.

The legal system’s insistence on incorporating notions of agency into the process has similarly hindered our ability to recognize/denounce those manifestations that fall outside of these rigid stipulations. The law demands that there be not only a visible actor, but also a directly observable, deterministic connection between the behaviour of one and the suffering of others. In other words, legal statutes define acts of criminal violence by specifying the form of injury, threat and harm, thereby placing different violent acts along a continuum that separates seriousness by some “objective” measure of outcome (Barak, 2003; Stanko, 2003). However, these restrictive criteria are occasionally relaxed or altered on an ad hoc basis, leading some critical observers to question whether such judgments are applied without prejudice (see Lynch and Michalowski, 2006). For example, the way in which criminal violations are treated based on mitigating/aggravating factors, or the different categories that exist for homicides, assaults, and acts of sexual violence reflect some of those inconsistencies. Furthermore, as Jackman (2002) notes, a variety of behaviours that meet the specified criteria of physical injury and harmful intent are specifically excluded from traditional or legalistic definitions, including those that are self-inflicted and those inflicted by state authorities in the course of enforcing the law, punishment, or providing collective defence. The subjectivity inherent in “objective” decision-making has, in turn, pushed critical theorists to fundamentally oppose the legitimacy mainstream scholars have unwittingly assigned to legalistic definitions of crime, especially since they are grounded in the belief that the law is premised on the ideological and material interests of political elites at the expense of those not in positions of power (Chambliss and Seidman, 1982; Kauzlarich, 2007; Quinney, 1970).

In the eyes of many critical scholars, attempting to make such rigid distinctions between illegitimate and legitimate force has only served to make the “concept of violence...inherently confused, as is the correlative concept of non-violence” (Wolff, 1971: 55). The emphasis sociologists/criminologists have placed on occurrences with physical injuries, the role of force, and interpersonal violence has come at the expense of other, equally damaging forms of violence such as psychological, social, and material injuries, verbal and written actions, and corporate agents and victims (Barak, 1991; Caldwell et al., 2004; Fanon, 2001; Jackman, 2002; Sarat and Kearns, 1992). Based on this reality, critical scholars have begun injecting broader definitions of violence into the public discourse in an effort to move us beyond analyses where illegitimate force requires both a visible agent and unwilling recipient.

Critical criminological/sociological scholars do not take for granted or limit themselves to state or official definitions of crime or violence. Instead, they set out to explore why various acts of violence are condemned and repudiated when others are denied, praised, or even glorified. They seek to identify those segments of our society that are powerful enough to make such distinctions. By postulating alternative definitions of crime and violence, like the human rights paradigm advanced by Schwendinger and Schwendinger (1970) some three decades ago, we are able to incorporate a host of other acts that cause social injury or suffering or which violate human rights. More recent formulations of what should be considered a crime or act of violence, made by critical theorists, have sought to encapsulate all forms of oppression and harm, including violence committed by corporate and government agents/agencies that typically go ignored ( e.g., Barak, 1991; Henry and Lanier, 2001; Jackman, 2002; Kauzlarich et al., 2003; Michalowski, 1985; Tift, 1995). Now, based on these expanded definitions, interpretations of violence can essentially constitute “any actions that inflict, threaten, or cause injury. Actions may be corporal, written or verbal. Injuries may be corporal, psychological, material, or social” (Jackman, 2002: 398).

Based on the quote above, would Farmer’s (2004) anthropological argument that suffering should be considered a form of violence qualify? Generic definitions, like Jackman’s (2002), encourage academics to not only pursue explanations of violence at the local and global levels, but also to identify its simultaneous manifestations in society’s structural, material, cultural, and political spheres (Arriaza, 2003). More significantly, these systematic definitions do not put in place constraints on the motivations of either the victim or the agent, and are “agnostic about whether the behaviour is unusual or commonplace and whether it meets with societal repudiation, disinterest, acceptance, or admiration. It provides a consistent, autonomous basis for identifying the full population of injurious social behaviours, purely on the basis of their indigenous behavioural attributes” (Jackman, 2002: 405).

The flexibility to pursue critical ideas has fostered a number of different conceptual frameworks from which the study of violence can be approached in the future. For example, Stanko’s (2003) edited volume, The Meanings of Violence, locates the phenomenon within social contexts, identities and social divisions. In this way, the author is able to pursue a range of violent social contexts, allowing her to explore the multiple, contradictory and complex meanings of violence. Gregg Barak (2005, 2003, 1991), a renowned scholar in the field of critical criminology, has proposed a reciprocal theory of violence and non-violence that is guided by the logic found in integrative, pathways, and life course theories. His model argues that both the properties of and pathways to violence or non-violence, across both the spheres of interpersonal, institutional and structural relations and the domains of family, subculture, and culture, are accumulating, reinforcing, and inversely related. From another perspective, Iadicola and Shupe (1998) introduce a Marxist definition of violence that is essentially premised on five primary elements: (1) It is the result of flaws in the system or structure, not in individuals, per se; (2) perpetrators may not have intended their acts to be violent; (3) actions conceived as violent may not be considered illegal; (4) violent actions may cause physical harm, but harm may also be emotional, social, economic, or cultural; and (5) violence affects all involved in the system, but certain groups will likely bear the brunt disproportionately.

Racism as Violence

The language inherent in Jackman’s (2002) interpretation of what constitutes an act of violence demonstrates her willingness to explore the ways in which institutional arrangements facilitate or obstruct the various types of violence, or what she defines as the social organization of violence manifested through race, class, and gender relations. Noting that violence should even include “actions that inflict humiliation, stigmatization, material loss, and/or social isolation,” Jackman (2002) provides a space where devastating social forces, like racism and social inequality, can even be viewed as a form of structural violence (see also Coady, 1986). Similarly to a position previously articulated by Schwendinger and Schwendinger (1970) in their request that scholars interested in studies on crime and violence go beyond the prerequisite of individual harm to include acts causing social injury and violating basic rights, such as imperialistic wars, racism, sexism, and poverty, public health officials in the US, along with studying problems of interpersonal violence, have recently begun examining the consequences of structural violence such as unequal development and racism (see Prothrow-Stith and Weissman, 1991).

The effects of racism can be psychological, economic, social and physical. Critical race scholars, for example, have highlighted the harms that racialized groups in North America have historically experienced (and continue to experience) because of racist ideologies that exist in those societies (Crenshaw, 2002; Delgado, 1995). Arguing that racism is an endemic part of American society, a vast body of literature has shown how many citizens suffer from discriminatory attitudes and practices, infecting our economic systems, our cultural and political institutions, and the daily interactions of others (Matsuda et al., 1993). Caldwell et al. (2004), for example, examine the relationship between experiences of racial discrimination, racial identity and violent behaviours. Among their findings, the authors concluded that the experience with racial discrimination was the strongest risk factor for young adult violent behaviour in their sample, which highlights the significance of race relations as a critical social context for understanding violent behaviour as a response to oppression.

Not only would social forces that produce structural inequalities be included in critical articulations of crime and violence, but so too would what legal scholar Robert Cover (1986) has referred to as “violence of the word.” A growing body of literature has taken advantage of this wider conceptual net by pursuing research that shows why verbal and written actions can also accomplish the infliction of physical injuries, either by directly initiating them (as edicts or contracts) or by inciting others to acts of physical violence (as in lynch mobs motivated by white supremacist ideologies). For example, historians and political scientists have looked critically at the role language has played in the cultivation and administration of ethno-violence, whether in labour violence, violence in slavery, lynchings of African-Americans, or urban acts of civil violence (Sarat, 1999; Tolnay and Beck, 1995; Watson, 1989; Websdale, 2001). In their book Words That Wound, the authors provide empirical evidence describing situations where words have the ability to be “used as weapons to ambush, terrorize, wound, humiliate, and degrade,” and thus should represent an assaultive form of speech that has the ability to inflict substantial psychological, social, or material injuries without being as conspicuous or flagrant as physical violence (Matsuda et al., 1993: 1).15 Although legal codes in North America currently recognize the significance of such actions against individuals by permitting litigation for alleged slander or libel, they do not provide the same protections to groups (as when stereotypes defame group members and diminish the self-esteem, social status, and material prospects for some individuals) (Bobo and Johnson, 2000; Jackman, 1981; Sinclair et al., 2002).

State or Corporate Violence

The area of state or corporate violence is another domain where critical theorists have influenced academic research. Radical or critical criminologists have begun treating deaths that occur in the workplace, corporate acts of violence, and/or government-sanctioned modes of violence within the nexus of activities occurring in our social lives, even though they might not necessarily be viewed or categorized as socially deviant or motivated by willful malice. With new definitions guiding their analyses, critical scholars have identified a range of actions, behaviours, or phenomena that cause harm to individuals and/or groups and that have traditionally gone unnoticed by academics. Many corporate actions with injurious outcomes are rarely, if ever, couched in terms of representing a criminal or violent act. Finley (2006), questioning mainstream views of violence, asks us to consider whether an act of violence has been committed when a business knowingly markets a flawed product, regardless of whether the business actually meant for consumers to be harmed. She goes on to observe that manifestations of systemic violence are often normalized, thus making it much harder to see the harms inherent in such practices. They are also often couched in terminologies that construe such acts as being unintentional or accidental. However, critical theorists are skeptical about the lack of attention corporate and state agents have garnered from academics studying crime or violence, which is simply because perpetrators are usually viewed/treated as relatively faceless entities and the outcomes are probabilistic rather than certain. Watkinson (1997: 4) explains that systemic violence, rather than being intentional, “results from traditional practices within institutions that may appear innocuous.” In challenging the common assumption that, because systemic violence does not appear in the same way as forms of interpersonal violence do, it is somehow less problematic, scholars in this camp have been encouraged to demonstrate just how detrimental these acts can be. For example, a number of researchers have documented evidence showing the various ways corporate actors actively resist attempts to rectify the practices that have caused injury in the first place (Barak, 1991). Through this critical lens, forms of collective violence can be examined so that behaviours and actions of corporate and state actors are seen as part of an observable conglomerate where there are plainly observable events with injurious effects on persons and property.

Recognizing that many of the decrees, decisions, and activities of government agencies (e.g., the criminal justice system) and institutions (e.g., education) that adversely affect the welfare of individuals or groups are equally germane (see Foucault, 1977; Johnson, 1990), critical theorists regard states, like corporations, as collective offenders. As Barak (1994: 265) iterates, states are the “publicly powerful” and, as such, are “responsible for much of the global crime, injury, harm, violence and injustice.” As Sarat and Kearns (1995) maintain, laws and policies themselves can be violent, and a number of studies have begun exploring the harms inherent in everyday practices within social institutions. Critical theorists like Iadicola and Shupe (1998) have engaged in research illustrating how institutional violence is built into the very way our institutions are structured. Educational institutions, for example, are an area of interest for scholars like Epp (1996) and Finley (2006). For Epp (1996: 1), systemic violence in schools encapsulates “any institutional practice or procedure that adversely impacts on individuals or groups by burdening them psychologically, mentally, culturally, spiritually, economically, or physically.” Finley’s (2006) study, using a similar approach, connects the use of metal detectors, drug tests, and strip searches to the growing literature on systemic violence by arguing that these three types of school searches constitute forms of violence waged against students because they experience both emotional and physical harms.

When Edgar Friedenberg wrote that “the police often slay; but they are seldom socially defined as murders,” he highlighted one of the ways violence is incorporated into the administration of justice (see Sarat, 1999:3). The administration of justice has also garnered the attention of critical scholars who have argued that violence is implicit (and explicit) in the law, and that state-sanctioned acts such as police brutality and capital punishment can at once be painful, brutal, and violent, yet are still considered by many to be legal or officially sanctioned behaviour. The concept of “law’s violence” has been used by scholars like Sarat and Kearns (1995) to contextualize violence that is inherent in the law and criminal justice policies and procedures. For example, Barak (1991), writing from a radical (Marxist) criminology perspective, identifies the “real” crimes committed by states, including deaths of indigenous peoples in custody in Australia, state terrorism in Peru, and casualties of America’s “War on Drugs” campaign.

As Sarat and Kearns note, the association of law and violence is visible in the discrete acts of law’s agents – the gun fired by the police, the sentence pronounced by the judge, and the execution carried out behind prison walls. In fact, the authors go as far as suggesting that American jurisprudence has been maintained through the use of force, in that it has served to “distort, disrupt, and reposition pre-existing relations and practices all in the name of an allegedly superior order.”

Although many of these actions are governed within some aspects of the law or criminal justice policies, Hay (1992) suggests that those who ignore the violence inherent in the law are ignoring a central facet of the law – its distinctiveness as a discursive practice. Critical race scholars have heeded these warnings, in that they have long argued that a strong relationship exists between racism and state violence (e.g., the death penalty) in the United States. Many have argued that the law symbolizes an official and legitimate form of violence that has oftentimes been used to create or reproduce racial and other social inequalities (see Clarke, 1996). Not only have a number of studies examined the role race plays in the administration of capital punishment, but the US Supreme Court has also been faced with constitutional challenges to the death penalty on the grounds it is administered and applied in a racially discriminatory manner (see McCleskey v. Kemp, 1987). Both sources of inquiry have commented on the disparate impact of capital punishment policies on African-American peoples, from the period of enslavement until now. For example, the US General Accounting Office’s evaluation synthesis of 28 empirical studies of death penalty sentences between 1972 and 1988 showed a pattern of racial disparities in charging, sentencing, and the imposition of the death penalty.16 The Supreme Court was also presented with statistical evidence, in 1987, in what has come to be known as the Baldus study, which purported to show that the race of the murder victim and the race of the defendant led to a disparity in the imposition of the death penalty in Georgia, and that this disproportionately affected blacks as victims and defendants of capital offences.17 The historical acceptance American courts have expressed towards disproportionately harsh sentences, which are race-based in the areas of the imposition of the death penalty (see McCleskey v. Kemp, 1987; Rice, 1993) and other criminal justice policies, has been of particular concern for critical race scholars in the United States.

The question of whether punishment acts as an effective deterrent to crime has been the subject of debate for decades. Critical scholars focusing on the association of law and violence have suggested that it does not, especially considering that “[l]aw’s violence stigmatizes so thoroughly it creates crime; it encourages the growth of criminal subcultures, of outlaws who have no incentive to find their way back in” (Hay, 1992: 160). In examining how state violence can in fact contribute to rates of violence at the interpersonal level, previous literature in this area of academia has generally argued that criminal justice policies merely serve to exacerbate rather than diminish problems that lead to crime in the first place. For example, McFarland’s (1983) review of studies on the death penalty in the United States found that longitudinal analyses tended to report reductions and increases in homicide rates in different settings. Short-term analyses, on the other hand, generally show increases in homicide rates in states where the death penalty is used prior to the 1970s. However in the post-Furman period, homicide rates seemed to have remained stable. In another literature review, Bowers (1988) argues that the main effects of executions vary by social setting, and that they impact some people more than others. Scholars have also tried to document the reciprocal effects of “three strikes” policies in the United States. In their study of 188 large US cities between 1980 and 1999, Kovandzic et al. (2002) found that the homicide-promoting effects of three-strikes laws in certain states were significant when homicide rates were compared with those in states not employing such policies. Essentially, cities in states with three-strike laws experienced short-term increases in homicide rates of approximately 14 per cent and long-term increases of 16 to 24 per cent compared with cities in states with no such laws. Marvell and Moody’s (2001) study supports the assertion that homicide rates increase following the implementation of three-strike laws. Noting that non-violent offenders facing lengthy prison terms because of their third strike might be more inclined to employ lethal violence as a way of minimizing the possibility of being apprehended, the authors boldly state that most crime control policies designed to decrease crime actually increase homicide, arguably the most serious crime of all.

Violence and globalization is another intersection that critical scholars have explored. In his review of academic literature on human rights violations, Stanley (2007) found that accountability for human rights violations is difficult to establish because the responsibility for violence is transnational in nature, cutting across state, corporate, and institutional boundaries, as well as individual actors. Gillespie’s (2006) study focuses on the relationship between globalization and violence in the context of neo-liberal economic policies in Latin America. Finally, Razack (2004) examines peacekeeper violence, evident in Canada’s peacekeeping mission to Somalia, by arguing that the “everyday” forms of violence that peacekeepers engage in on a routine basis (e.g., murder, assault, sexual violence) while in foreign countries is firmly rooted in colonialism and its attendant ideologies. Critical theorists have suggested that criminologists, in particular, have the ability to contribute valuable insights to the study of genocide, provided that they do not attempt to frame analyses within traditional mainstream hypotheses (see Brannigan, 1998; Day and Vandiver, 2000; Woolford, 2006; Yacoubian, 2000). In fact, some critical criminologists have done extraordinary work, noting that the deaths caused by genocide in the 20th century have far surpassed deaths caused by street crime, and that this represents perhaps the greatest danger for us to think about in the 21st century (Freidrichs, 2000; Yacoubian, 2001).


Putting official violence alongside what we deem to be lawless violence “threatens to expose state killing as essentially similar to the anti-social violence it is supposed to deter and punish” (Sarat, 2001: 124). Finding ways to bridge the gap between the two can lead to enhanced understandings of how violence at the macro-level serves to influence individual acts of violence at the same time. To use a quote from Hay (1992: 173) to sum up the connection between official, legitimate violence and manifestations of private or interpersonal violence from the broadest possible perspective, “if inequality continues to increase, Law’s violence, and the violence it generates, in turn, must continue to increase also.” In the end, academics and disciplines that fail to come to terms with the myriad harms of violence are not likely to produce useful and comprehensive knowledge to help us better understand, prevent, and possibly prosecute such acts (Woolford, 2006).


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13 This section of the report was prepared by Terrence Roswell, PhD candidate, Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto and Lecturer, Caribbean Studies Program, Ryerson University.

14 Critical race scholars have acknowledged that other acts have been included, but only when public scrutiny is drawn or in other rare instances.

15 For example, these critical race scholars use empirical evidence to highlight the increasing frequency and regularity of incidents of hate speech and racial harassment that are being reported in the United States of America, particularly on American college campuses (Matsuda et al., 1993: 1). For example, the National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence, in its 1990 report on campus ethnoviolence, found that 65 to 70 per cent of the nation’s minority students reported some form of ethno-violent harassment, and the number of college students victimized by ethno-violence is in the range of 800,000 to 1 million annually (ibid).

16 In 82 per cent of the studies reviewed, the race of the victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty (US General Accounting Office, 1990).

17 Specifically, the lawyers in the McCleskey case (1987) pointed to two significant findings in the Baldus study. First was what they referred to as “race of the victim discrimination,” since murderers of whites were sentenced to death at a significantly higher rate than were murderers of blacks. Secondly, “race of the defendant discrimination” spoke to the fact that black murderers received the death penalty in Georgia at a higher rate than did whites who had committed similar homicides (see Rice, 1993).


Volume 1. Findings, Analysis and Conclusions

Volume 2. Executive Summary

Volume 3. Community Perspectives Report

Volume 4. Research Papers

Volume 5. Literature Reviews