ABSTRACT

A good starting place for an inquiry into controlling state criminality is with Gregg Barak’s edited book entitled Crimes by the Capitalist State: An Introduction to State Criminality (1991), one of the first scholarly books on the subject of state criminality. According to Barak (1991: 6), a framework must be developed for conceptualizing crimes committed by states. Although state crimes are most often associated with overt military action, which Barak labels “proactive state criminality,” there is a second category that is scarcely mentioned in the literature on state criminality that includes crimes of omission (Barak, 1991: 6). Examples of proactive state crimes include the U.S. government’s activities in the course of the Iran-Contra affair. On the other hand, a state crime of omission may involve a state’s denial of adequate housing and economic opportunities to a segment of the population, which induces criminal behavior on the part of the economically displaced (Barak, 1991: 6; Henry, 1991). Roebuck and Weeber (1978) similarly acknowledged, over a decade earlier, that governments violate the law by omission or commission.