The Perils of Federalism: Race, Poverty, and the Politics of Crime Control

Research output: Book/ReportBook

199 Scopus citations


This book compares interest group participation in the development of crime and justice policy across the local, state and national levels of government and has three main contributions to law, policy and criminology scholarship. First, it provides a detailed analysis of the narrow and often parochial nature of national and state crime politics, in contrast to the active and intense local political mobilization on crime by racial minorities and the urban poor. The book illustrates the ways the structure of U.S. federalism has contributed to the current situation in which national policy responses to crime overlook black and poor victims of violence and how highly organized, narrowly focused interest groups, such as the National Rifle Association, have a disproportionate influence in crime politics. This study also demonstrates that urban minorities and the poor mobilize locally to address crime as one of many social ills, though their tactics are often unconventional and their resources limited. Second, it illustrates how the absence of these groups from the policy process at the state and national levels has encouraged the development of policy frames that are highly skewed in favor of police, prosecutors, and narrow citizen interests, whose policy preferences often converge on increasing punishments for offenders. That this is true even at the national level, where policy scholars often assume the policy process is more open and porous than at subregional levels, is a major contribution of the book. Finally, the comparison of group participation across legislative venues on a single policy issue contributes to our understanding of group theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages288
ISBN (Electronic)9780199867967
ISBN (Print)9780195331684
StatePublished - Aug 28 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


  • Crime
  • Criminal justice
  • Criminology
  • Federalism
  • Interest groups
  • Poverty
  • Public policy
  • Racial politics


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