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Something I've learned while in law school is about the social construction of crime. I work in a legal clinic on wage theft cases, where employers have "improperly paid" workers by not paying, paying below min wage, withholding overtime, paid sick time, etc. 1/
Most theft is wage theft. Meaning, the dollar value of stolen wages is greater than the value, each year, of all burglaries+robberies, shoplifting, auto theft, combined. Yet, wage theft is NOT A CRIME 2/
If you steal $100 from your employer, you will get arrested. If you call the police because your paycheck is $100 light, the police will tell you to file a complaint with the AG, and the AG will settle the case for between $50 and $200. 3/
(That's actually not true, bc AG's only take on big cases with thousands of dollars are stake, but they will settle big cases by typically requiring the employer to properly pay what is owed. No jail, no criminal record). 4/
If the AG doesn't want to take the case, it will give you a Private Right of Action to sue the employer in civil court for what you are owed, plus damages. It can take a 6 to 18 months to win at trial, and months or years to collect on the judgment if you win. 5/
In short, we address the predominant form of theft in the US with civil court cases, not criminal cases. We have literally defined "wage theft" as not a crime. Theft by you, a crime. Theft by your employer, not a crime.
This is what we mean when we say crime is "socially constructed." Not all social harms are criminalized. Not all actors committing social harm are criminalized.
I settled a case for $27K for three clients last year. We spent a MONTH negotiating the non-disclosure agreement because the employer stated if all his employees sued him and settled like this, he would go BANKRUPT. His business model DEPENDED on wage theft. 8/
These employers go on to hold elected office. 45 famously used wage theft to improve his finances on construction projects, leaving a trail of victims in his wake. Some sued and he had to pay them. Others didn't have resources to pursue multi-year litigation + got nothing. 9/
What should we do about it? criminalize employers or decriminalize theft or something else? 10/
Wage theft shows that we believe restitution is important. Giving the money back is important. Currently, AG keeps track of bad actors and will increase future financial penalties for bad actors. 11/
It also shows when harm is committed, we don't have to lock someone in a cage or label them a felon, both of which destroy years of life even after the sentence is over. We can demand restitution instead of punishment. 11/
It also shows how ridiculous the label "high crime neighborhood" is. And the arbitrary and racist response of police surveillance in HCN. Because we defined it that way.

Consider the social construction of murder: 12/
Poison a person, go to jail, they call you a felon for life. Poison a city resulting in dozens of deaths and thousands with brain damage, get a teaching fellowship at Harvard, they call you ex-Gov of Michigan Rick Snyder. Same with much corporate poisoning. 13/
The people commiting the most harm aren't in jail, don't live in high crime neighborhoods. And "black people commit more crime" is true only bc of how we have defined crimes, and how we then surveil their community in response to find more crimes. 14/
There are so many orgs trying to address harm and create accountability within community + without incarceration. We call ourselves prison abolitionists. 15/

Just a few: @byp100 @survivepunishNY @justicehealing @DeeperThanWater @BlackAndPinkBos @BlmBoston
A few more you might want to follow or support @GKMC18 @ignitekindred @MsKellyMHayes @prisonculture @crlosangeles 16/
If you are feeling like "damn, this thread turned left, why don't we just lock up ALL ppl who commit harm", I'm still learning about how to actually reduce future harms.

Former prosecutor + Prof Paul Butler on abolition: /17…
And the incomparable Mariame Kaba, giving an interview on abolition: /18…
Or take it from human rights attorney Derricka Purnell and Law for Black Lives' Marbre Stahly-Butts: /19…
In the employment context, we can prevent wage theft by replacing corporate ownership with employee ownership: worker owned cooperatives that share profits and losses, removing the power dynamic that incentivizes wage theft in the first place. Power corrupts. /20
To transform the economy, fund Ujima Project:

To fight for a right to housing, fund City Life

To invest in community where everyone's needs are met, fund Movement for Black Lives:

To transform how we mitigate and respond to violence, fund Violence in Boston, Inc.

@avitale 's book The End of Policing is now available for FREE. It's been on my list to read for a while.
Getting a lot of questions, so I'd like to clarify I am not saying we should criminalize wage theft!
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