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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 76769 Find in a Library
Title: Towards a Popular Justice in the United States - The Dialectics of Community Action
Journal: Contemporary Crisis  Volume:5  Issue:2  Dated:(April 1981)  Pages:155-192
Author(s): J P Brady
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 38
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Netherlands
Annotation: State justice contradictions and impetus for citizens' action, vigilante justice, auxiliary justice organizations, the concept of popular justice, and the future of citizens' response to crime are explored in this article.
Abstract: Despite vast expenditures, procedural reforms, and organizational and technological innovations, the legal bureaucracies have been unable to either impose effective social discipline or win public confidence in the fairness and moral legitimacy of the State. Cynicism about the effectiveness of the criminal justice system is sharpest among minority citizens, who have been historically subjected to the most intense crime-producing exploitation and to the most violent and arbitrary State justice repression. One response to the perceived unfairness is vigilante justice; today vigilanteeism appears to be in the midst of a national resurgence. The best known modern vigilante group was formed in New Jersey. Ostensibly formed to prevent racial conflicts and crimes, the organization aroused fears of race wars and encouraged siege psychology among whites in the community. The auxiliary form of citizens' participation in crime prevention efforts differs clearly from the vigilante in terms of organizational structure, practice, and operating ideology. Such groups are regulated and recognized by the State and are often officially funded. Most prominent among the auxiliary organizations are the crime watch networks which have developed across the country. The fragmented local efforts which comprise 'popular' justice are not unified by ideology or organization. Popular justice groups are characterized by ties to social movements against racism, inequality, and sexism; a critical attitude toward the State and the legal system; and a strategy which emphasizes community organizing and political education. The crisis in crime and justice will grow worse in the 1980's. Auxilary groups clearly must become a central part of the State's strategy for the future. Opposition to vigilantes and State justice repression must take the 'popular' form, with broad united front appeals. The article provides 129 reference notes.
Index Term(s): Abuse of authority; Citizen crime tolerance; Citizen satisfaction; Community involvement; Criminal justice system effectiveness; Fear of crime; Marxism; Police community relations; United States of America; Vigilantes
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