We are experimenting with a new format in this issue. Given the fortuitous circumstance of having reviews of three books on organized crime by the same reviewer, we are publishing these reviews as a mini-cluster focused on organized crime and corruption. The reviewer, Frederick T. Martens, is a retired New Jersey State Police Detective/Lieutenant. He has conducted investigations of organized crime and public corruption in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania (where he was Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Crime Commission). A former president of the International Association for the Study of Organized Crime, Martens has used his unique practitioner/academic background to study and write extensively about organized crime.
Most Recent Reviews
From the Editors: We include here for the first time, an author’s response to our previously published review of his book. We believe that in selective instances, this form of interaction will be both interesting and enlightening for our readers.
Often reports that are suppressed by governments are more truthful than those that are endorsed and published. In April 1969 President Richard Nixon directed a group of advisers to examine the effectiveness of the executive branch in combating organized crime. They concluded, “We would be negligent… not to emphasize that organized crime flourishes in today’s legal and social environment. Even with administrative improvement, organized crime will continue to thrive so long as the community relies primarily on criminal sanctions to discourage … the use of drugs.”
Nixon ordered the destruction of all copies of this report – but through an oversight one remains, buried in the National Archives. While Martens in his review of Double Crossed regrets the lack of rigorous and credible evaluations of the effectiveness of organized crime control strategies, I share the view of Nixon’s silenced advisers that no amount of evaluation will prevent organized crime thriving because of the opportunities for illicit gain made possible by drug prohibition. One need only consider the easy and relatively cheap availability of illegal drugs in America to make this point. Since Nixon’s time American organized crime control and drug control methods have been exported throughout the world with the predictable result that a multitude of producers, refiners, distributors, importers, exporters, wholesalers, retailers, pushers, financiers and enforcers have combined with the corrupt in officialdom to successfully organized crime in every continent.
Double Crossed is, as Martens states, critical of American efforts to enlist other nations in the containment of organized crime such as human trafficking, organized wildlife crime, narcotics distribution, money laundering and other syndicated crime. The book details how the international effort against these undoubted evils has been as counter-productive or inadequate as the American models on which they were based. To take money laundering as an example, the U.K. has been shoulder-to-shoulder with the U.S. in constructing a global anti-laundering regime while shamelessly enabling several of its offshore crown dependencies to continue to launder money on an industrial scale. There has also been a continuous stream of big western banks found to be as welcoming to dirty money as they were before money laundering was criminalized.
Martens rightly notes that Double Crossed details the actions of corrupt politicians, businessmen, and law enforcement authorities and finds them to be at the root of the problem of organized crime. However, I was disappointed that he found no room to comment on my analysis of America’s prison gang phenomenon. The policy of putting hundreds of thousands of “low hanging fruit” in prison alongside networked career criminals has backfired in a spectacular way. The ethnographer Francis Ianni made an accurate observation in his 1974 book Black Mafia when he wrote that “prisons and the prison experience are the most important loci for establishing the social relationships that form the basis for partnerships in organized crime.” Prison networks and out-of-prison networks have been multiplying since the 1970s and as they continue to do so they will continue to make the case outlined in the subtitle of Double Crossed, “The Failure of Organized Crime Control.”
Michael Woodiwiss, Lecturer in History, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK.