In understanding crime and criminals, law enforcers and citizens should not only look at the act of crime and the background of criminals. Rather, there are a number of forces and situations in the society that give rise to crime such as the sociological background of people and the impact of institutions in the act of crime. Reiman discussed the concept of carnival mirror of crime and how the society constructs the fear of crime based on what is seen as violent, dangerous and the seemingly deviant crimes in the streets.
This led to a fear of the streets and the overt expressions of violence and crimes. The concept of “dangerous crimes” has become equated with physical violence and the use of force in the streets. Reiman looked at this phenomenon as something that protects the appearances of peace and order. Yet, beneath the surface, there are crimes being done that could not be easily identified as dangerous crimes. Yet, because of the social context, such crimes are not being addressed for the real danger that they are. Carnival Mirror of Crime and the Justice System
The concept of the carnival mirror of crime revolves around this looking only at the surface. The Justice System indeed acts as a carnival mirror in the sense that street crimes are given primary importance while crimes that do not directly take lives or harm people are relegated into the side. Because of this treatment, other crimes such as occupational hazards, health care, poverty and other “less violent” crimes are not being given enough attention. What is even more appalling is that some of the most adverse acts that affect the well-being of people are not included in the criminal law.
This has great impact on the manner that the law is being implemented. How can the justice system prosecute such adverse acts if there are no laws prohibiting them? This also tends to put poor people into the sterner side of the law because they are the ones who tend to be affected by the images of criminals described in the profiling that result from the dangerous crimes committed in the streets. Take for example the differences between a corrupt corporate employee and the thug in the streets. What sets them apart is that the thug looks dangerous and he can inflict direct damage into anyone.
In comparison, the corporate employee looks nice in a suit, looks educated, knows the right words to be given at the right time and knows the law that he could manipulate for him to go scot free. A criminal in the street and a criminal in the corporate world do not have differences. They are both criminals. Except that the carnival mirror of crime in the Justice System tends to look more favorably to the corporate employee because he looks more respectable and he has more knowledge with how the law and the justice system works.
Meanwhile, the criminal in the street is adjudged as such by his appearance and by random acts that approximate the deviant behavior of criminals. The justice system is supposedly equal and gives equal opportunity for people to defend themselves. Yet, more often than not, the law and the justice system tend to be biased towards white collar criminals and against the poorer criminals. The stereotypes of the inner city, violence, drug use, gun use and other factors also help reinforce the notion that most crimes are conducted by those who are poor. What Reiman is saying is that white collar crime tends to be protected by the justice system.
This is consistent with the Conflict and Radical perspectives of crime. Conflict theory gives primacy on class differences, which are partly based on economics and situation in life of citizens belonging to the society. When the labels are used to describe the criminals and those who do crime, it follows that the justice system becomes more prejudiced to those who are being labeled as criminals. Likewise, Reiman’s analysis is consistent with radical perspective in which the deviant or criminal acts of the poor can be considered as an act of stealing or rebelling against the dominant majority.
In this regard, the criminal acts are also statements against the majority. When the majority therefore perceives these threats and activities, they use the power of law and the justice system to punish or deter such deviant acts. The bottom line is, there are a number of reasons why criminals commit the crimes they engage with. By simply labeling people and stereotyping them, the justice system will not be able to prosecute those who are truly doing wrong but will only prosecute and punish those who “appear” to be doing wrong.