Class and Crime
Definition Of Crime
Although official definitions of crime are legislative, in practice crime is defined by administrative policies and enforcement practices. While most crime is some form of theft or assault and most of it results in physical harm or property loss for individuals, there are crimes where no loss of property is involved and no injury is inflicted on others. Enforcement policies and practices will determine who is arrested for such crimes. The areas in which these offenses are perpetrated, as well as the prior income and employment status of prison and jail inmates suggest that drug laws and laws against gambling and prostitution have generally worked against the poor more than they have against the rich.
Those who study crime and delinquency also define crime. The definition of crime was greatly expanded when criminologists began asking people to report their own illegal or improper behavior. In some of the early self-report studies, conduct that is only illegal when minors do it was defined as criminal (Nye and Short). In some self-report studies conduct was defined as delinquent even when it was so common than almost everyone could be classified as delinquent. At the other extreme, criminologists have classified some conduct as criminal that does not violate existing law. These writers believe that all forms of economic exploitation, racial discrimination, or creation of unsafe or unhealthy work environments are harmful and should be made criminal. Because they define such conduct as criminal, they argue that crime is evenly distributed across class levels or that it is linked to upper class status (Pepinsky and Jesilow).