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Center for Progressive Reform



Why Not Jail?

Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction

The U.S. Department of Justice is under fire for failing to prosecute banks that caused the 2008 economic meltdown because they are too big to jail. Prosecutors have long neglected to hold corporate executives accountable for chronic mistakes that kill and injure workers and customers. This book, the first of its kind, analyzes five industrial catastrophes that have killed or sickened consumers and workers or caused irrevocable harm to the environment. From the Texas City refinery explosion to the Upper Big Branch mine collapse to the destruction of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and extending to incidents of food and drug contamination that have killed or injured hundreds, the root causes of these preventable disasters include crimes of commission and omission. Although federal prosecutors have made a start on holding low-level managers liable, far more aggressive prosecution is appropriate as a matter of law, policy, and justice. In accessible and jargon-free language, CPR President Rena Steinzor recommends innovative interpretations of existing laws to elevate the prosecution of white-collar crime at the federal and state levels.


What the Experts Say About Why Not Jail?

"Rena Steinzor demonstrates how the exercise of corporate power over all branches of our government has resulted in weak laws, anemic enforcement budgets, de facto immunity for corporate bosses, and increasingly more limited liability for Big Business. Her remedies, arising out of five case studies of lethal corporate crime, focus on prosecutions in personam — directly on the culpable mid- and senior-level executives who routinely use the artificial corporate entity as their shield. The prospect of jail time is the best deterrent to corporate crime. Steinzor has made a formidable argument for lawmakers, prosecutors, and judges to focus on that truism and stand tall for enforcement strategies that will prevent ‘crimes in the suites.’”

— Ralph Nader

“Rena Steinzor provides an expert diagnosis of what ails the regulatory process, and her prescriptions contain insightful remedies. The historic events described in this book show what happens when violations and fines are accepted as a cost of doing business. Why Not Jail? makes a compelling argument for criminal prosecutions of executives who tolerate noncompliance and endanger public health and the environment.”

— U.S. Representative Henry A. Waxman


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