Dialectics of Legal Repression, The

Dialectics of Legal Repression, The: Black Rebels Before the American Criminal Courts

Copyright Date: 1973
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Dialectics of Legal Repression, The
    Book Description:

    Less than 2 percent of some 4000 adults prosecuted for participating in the bloodiest ghetto revolt of this generation served any time in jail as a result of their conviction and sentencing. Why? Why, in contrast, did the majority of those arrested following a brief and minor confrontation with police in a different city receive far harsher treatment than ordinarily meted out for comparable offenses in "normal" times? What do these incidents tell us about the nature of legal repression in the American state?

    No coherent theory of political repression in the liberal state exists today. Neither the liberal view of repression as "anomaly" nor the radical view of repression as "fascist core" appears to come to grips with the distinctive characteristics of legal repression in the liberal state.

    This book attempts to arrive at a more adequate understanding of these "distinctive characteristics" by means of a detailed analysis of the legal response to the most serious violent challenge to the existing political order since the Great Depression-the black ghetto revolts between 1964 and 1968.

    Using police and court records, and extensive interviews with judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and detention officials, Professor Balbus provides a complete reconstruction of the response of the criminal courts of Los Angeles, Detroit, and Chicago to the "civil disorders" that occurred in these cities. What emerges is a disturbing picture of the relationship between court systems and participants and the local political environments in which they operate.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-022-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    Isaac D. Balbus
  6. Chapter One The Dialectics of Legal Repression
    (pp. 1-46)

    This book is a study of the response of the American legal order to the black ghetto revolts of the 1960s. More specifically, its purpose is to describe and explain the administration of justice during and immediately following ghetto revolts of both major and minor proportions in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Chicago, three of America’s largest cities. By focusing on the enormous difficulties–even contradictions–entailed in the effort to employ the ordinary criminal courts and ordinary legal procedures to sanction participants in collective revolts, we seek to illuminate the peculiar dynamics of legal repression in the American state in...

  7. Chapter Two Los Angeles
    (pp. 47-106)

    For one week in August 1965, the ghetto of Watts exploded, an explosion evoking the participation of thousands of black ghetto residents, compelling the presence of literally the entire Los Angeles police department and thousands of National Guard troops, and involving destruction of property and life virtually unparalleled since the “race riots” of an earlier and easily forgotten generation. In that one week, in what was up to that time the largest mass arrest in this nation in the twentieth century, 4,000 blacks were arrested and subsequently processed through a Los Angeles criminal court system totally unprepared for such an...

  8. Chapter Three Detroit
    (pp. 107-164)

    On the evening of August 9, 1966–almost one year to the day following the outbreak of Los Angeles’ first ghetto revolt–a confrontation between representatives of two militant organizations of Detroit’s east side Kercheval ghetto and police precipitated Detroit’s first ghetto revolt. Beginning at 10:00 p.m. and continuing intermittently for three days crowds of up to 100 gathered to throw rocks and occasional fire bombs (most of which failed to ignite) at police and passing motorists; according to police records during the three-day period there were no deaths, some 21 persons were injured, 169 fire alarms were reported, property...

  9. Chapter Four Chicago
    (pp. 165-230)

    In the summers of 1965 and 1966 the Civil Rights Movement—fresh from hard-won victories in the South—opened a drive against Chicago’s separate but decidedly unequal schools and housing and the unsympathetic head of the school system, Benjamin Willis. Bringing with them the movement tactics of marches and sit-ins designed in part to obstruct traffic, these activities confronted a Chicago Police Department which had little or no experience in handling civil rights protest. It was in the summer of 1965, therefore, that the superintendent of the Chicago police department, O. W. Wilson, requested the assistance of the office of...

  10. Chapter Five Conclusion: Black Rebels before the American Criminal Courts
    (pp. 231-264)

    The analysis developed in the first chapter of this study demonstrated that any given court response to collective violence in the liberal state is likely to be a function of a delicate balance which court authorities are forced to strike among their compelling and competing interests in order, formal rationality, and organizational maintenance. It was also suggested that the nature of this balance would in large part be determined by the magnitude of the collective violence and by the nature of the structural relationship between the court system and the broader political system in which it is embedded. We are...

  11. Index
    (pp. 265-269)