Unknown Justice: Crime and Social Harm

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Social harm. Let’s talk about social harm and criminal justice. In the United States, we have a “cops and robbers” image that is circulated throughout our culture. When people think about criminal justice in the United States they think about the cops busting some “low-life gang member” or pesky bandit in a “shady” part of town. Many people have no clue about other concepts of criminal activity and our justice system displays this lethargic and menial brain span. For example, the massive amount of corporation crime that goes on in this country is almost unbelievable – some of these crimes are deeper and more serious than most people consider. We don’t seek out business criminals or provide retribution for environmental crimes. It’s all bad guy-chasing in rough parts of town in this country. Can someone say “social class?” Politicians and police officers routinely face the law and get petty sentences or no punishment whatsoever. These are the same people who rally around crime rates and ideas about social utopia. Social events are a causation of social harm. Not knowing how criminal activity is a behavior that is not defined with a personal standard is a social event that causes social harm.

If real world examples are your thing, here’s two: 1) British Petroleum’s oil volcano in the Gulf of Mexico devastated millions of people and other living species in the South and no one was held accountable. Fishermen and their families were wiped out and forced to start over. Marine life died for no reason. The water and soil was polluted with toxic substances and made the environment unlivable. But it’s a business accident and there’s no sketchy alley to chase a suspect into, so, it’s acceptable. 2) Unchecked medical malpractice. We have doctors and health organizations tapping into the government-based healthcare system and making a mint off of “necessary” procedures and appointments. What worse type of social harm exists besides defrauding and destroying our healthcare system in the United States?

Criminality is more than ducking and dodging bullets in an impoverished neighborhood or arresting a drug dealer. It’s everywhere, but we choose who to apply the criminal laws to – that’s a social event that causes the most social harm in my opinion. Selective-social deviancy is what goes on in the United States.

Benjamin J. Bolton
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Criminology and Justice Master of Arts Program
St. John’s University

About Benjamin Bolton 3 Articles
Upcoming criminologist that prefers stoic analyses and cynical inquiries.


  1. Our criminal justice systems displays an image of the individuals [and their characteristics] who are involved in the system and that depiction is based on socioeconomic status or some label. Cops and robbers.

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