The Mythology of Crime and Criminal Justice:  by Victor E. Kappeler, Gary W. Potter
530 pages, $57.95 list
1-4786-0260-0
978-1-4786-0260-6
eBook availability
The Mythology of Crime and Criminal Justice
Fifth Edition
The social construction of crime is often out of proportion to the threat posed. The media and advocacy groups shine a spotlight on some crimes and ignore others. Street crime is highlighted as putting everyone at risk of victimization, while the greater social harms from corporate malfeasance receive far less attention.

Social arrangements dictate what is defined as crime and the punishments for those who engage in the proscribed behavior. Interest groups promote their agendas by appealing to public fears. Justifications often have no basis in fact, but the public accepts the exaggerations and blames the targeted offenders. The net-widening effect of more laws and more punishment catches those least able to defend themselves.

This innovative alternative to traditional textbooks provides insightful observations of myths and trends in criminal justice. Fourteen chapters challenge misconceptions about specific crimes or aspects of the criminal justice system. Kappeler and Potter dissect popular images of crimes and criminals in a cogent, compelling, and engaging manner. They trace the social construction of each issue and identify the misleading statistics and fears that form the basis of myths—and the collateral damage of basing policies on mythical beliefs. The authors encourage skepticism about commonly accepted beliefs, offer readers a fresh perspective, and urge them to analyze important issues from novel vantage points.
Table of Contents
1. The Social Construction of Crime Myths
The Functions of Crime Myths / Powerful Mythmakers / Creating Crime Myths / Characterizations of Crime Myths / Selection and Dissemination of Myths

2. Crime Waves, Fears, and Social Reality
Fears about Crime and Criminals / Facts about Crime and Criminals / Uniform Crime Reports / National Crime Victimization Survey / The Reality of Crime / Crime Images

3. The Myth and Fear of Missing Children
Influences on Public Perception / Exploitation Has Many Faces / Distorted Definitions / Creating Reality through Misleading Statistics / Latent Functions of Prevention / Creating Crime and Criminals / Replacing the Myth

4. Stalkers: Spreading Myth to Common Crime
Constructing the Myth of Stalking / Officializing the Myth / Measuring the Reality of Stalking / Consequences of Criminalization

5. Organized Crime: The Myth of an Underworld Empire
The Alien Conspiracy Myth / The Transnational Organized Crime Myth / It's the Economy, Stupid! / The Businesses of Organized Crime / Challenges to State Sovereignty / State-Organized Crime / The Embeddedness of Organized Crime / Controlling Organized Crime / The Utility of Organized Crime

6. Corporate Crime and "Higher Immorality"
White-Collar Crime and Corporate Crime / "Real" Corporate Crime / The Costs of Corporate Crime / The Normalcy of Corporate Crime / Enforcement / Regulatory Agencies / Environmental Injustice / Criminal Acts by Governmental Agencies / Neutralizing Myths

7. Apocalypse Now: The Lost War on Drugs
Masking the Costs of the Drug War / Myths of Supply Reduction / Myths and Consequences / Casualties of the Drug War / The Intractable Problem of Drugs / Dangers of Legal and Illegal Drug Use / Drugs and Crime / A Just Peace?

8. Juvenile Superpredators: The Myths of Killer Kids, Dangerous Schools, and a Youth Crime Wave
The Goals, the Panic, and the Consequences / Transforming the Juvenile Justice System / Processing Juvenile Offenders / The School-to-Prison Pipeline / Bullying / The Dissonance of Shackling and Solitary / Juveniles as Victims

9. Battered and Blue Crime Fighters: Myths and Misconceptions of Police Work
Real Police Work / Myths of Police Stress / Living the Crime Fighter Myth

10. Order in the Courts: The Myth of Equal Justice
The Role of Law in Society / Celebrity Cases / Mythical Aspects of Arrest / Mythical Aspects of Trial / Mythical Aspects of Probation and Sentencing / Biased Justice

11. Cons and Country Clubs: The Mythical Utility of Punishment
Who Does the Crime Determines the Time / Mythical Assumptions: Unrelenting Consequences / Behind Bars / The Pains of Imprisonment

12. The Myth of a Lenient Criminal Justice System
The Crime Rate in the United States / In the Name of Deterrence / The Trend toward Greater Punitiveness in the United States / Collateral Punishments

13. Capital Punishment: The Myth of Murder as Effective Crime Control
Discrimination and the Death Penalty / The Myth of Deterrence / The Myth of Capital Punishment as Cost Effective / The Myth of a Flawless Process / The Myth of Fair and Impartial Juries / Perpetuating the Myths

14. Merging Myths and Misconceptions of Crime and Justice
Recycled Frameworks / The Electronic Echo Chamber / Of Politics and Demagogues / Expanding Bureaucracies / Use and Misuse of Science / Fallout from Crime Myths / Masking Social Problems with Myth / Restructuring the Study of Crime