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Theoretical Criminology

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Crime Rates, Police brutality -- United States


This project combines the conversation on the national crime rate with emerging discussions on the violence that the state perpetrates against civilians. To measure US lethal violence holistically, we reconceptualize the traditional definitional boundaries of violence to erase arbitrary distinctions between state- and civilian-caused crime and violence. Discussions of the “crime decline” focus specifically on civilian crime, positioning civilians as the sole danger to the health, wealth, and safety of individuals. Violence committed by the state—from police homicide to deaths in custody to in-prison sexual assault—is not found in the traditionally reported crime rate. These absences belie real dangers posed to individuals which are historical and contemporary, nonnegligible, and possibly rising. We present Uniform Crime Report data side-by-side with data on police killings, deaths in custody, and executions from sources such as Fatal Encounters, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and the Center for Disease Control to produce a robust discussion of deaths produced through the criminal legal system. We ground this empirical analysis in a broader conceptual framework that situates state violence squarely within the realm of US crime, and explore the implications of this more holistic view of crime for future analyses.


Copyright © 2021 by SAGE Publications


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Theoretical Criminology. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Theoretical Criminology, 136248062098423.



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