Questioning crime: social harms and global issues
Questioning crime: social harms and global issues

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Questioning crime: social harms and global issues

2.3 Criminology and Hurricane Katrina: understanding ‘natural disasters’ through a legalistic approach?

Described image
Figure 4 A police car damaged in Hurricane Katrina. Could the law be used to prosecute ‘state crimes of omission’ rather than to control poorer communities affected by the hurricane?

Legalistic approaches are grounded in the assumptions that the law and criminal justice systems should be used to define crime, determine whether offences have taken place and determine what redress (if any) victims are entitled to (similarly to traditional criminological approaches). It assumes that any government failings can be identified through the criminal justice system and the law can be used to establish any entitlement to compensation. For example, in the case of Hurricane Katrina, much attention was paid to the failure of the levee system in New Orleans, which was supposed to protect the city from flooding, as well as the process of evacuation from the city. John Culhane (2007) has argued that these failures should be understood in terms of negligence on the part of the government and remedied through the provision of compensation in accordance with existing law (this could be through state law or an international law or agreement).

On the other hand, Kelly Faust and David Kauzlarich (2008) suggest that excess victimisation caused by such natural disasters constitute ‘state crimes of omission’. Usually, this is seen as resulting from a failure of government to protect citizens from harms that it has a duty to protect them from, and, in relation to Hurricane Katrina, Faust and Kauzlarich found that significant failures of ‘expected governmental duties to protect life and property, [to] address known and profound hazards to communities, and to responsively and humanely deliver services after catastrophes’, and thus that Hurricane Katrina can be considered a ‘state crime of omission’ (Faust and Kauzlarich, 2008, pp. 86–7, 98).


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371