Devastation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a state crime: social audience reactions
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In the 5 years since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, scholars in many disciplines have speculated on the sources of the widespread devastation. While many of these studies have focused on objective evidence of the violation of human rights following Hurricane Katrina, this study reviews the human rights violations and goes a step further by examining social audience reactions (both victims and the general public) to the government’s response efforts. Relying on Green and Ward’s (Green 2009; Green and Ward Social Justice, 27, 101–115, 2000; 2004) human rights/organizational deviance definition, which sees state crime as human rights violations that result from state organizational deviance, we attempt to provide further evidence of this case as one of state crime. This article presents results from binary logistic regression analyses that assess the likelihood of respondents disapproving of the actions of officials from various levels of government after the hurricane using data from a survey of Hurricane Katrina evacuees completed by The Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University (The Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University 2005) in the weeks after the storm, and data from a special topics ABC News/Washington Post public opinion survey completed in September of 2005 (ABC News/The Washington Post 2006). Key findings in this study include a strong similarity of results across data sets for race, sex, and religion with regards to respondents disapproving responses to the storm devastation at the federal level. A clear majority of respondents in both data sets disapproved of the actions of some level of government, further implying negative audience reactions, and thus the need to recognize the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina as a state crime.
We would like to thank the Kercher Endowment at Western Michigan University for providing funds to purchase the Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University data set. This article benefited considerably from the thoughtful comments and guidance of David Kauzlarich and an anonymous reviewer. Any remaining flaws are, of course, our responsibility. Earlier versions of this research were presented at the annual meetings of the American Society of Criminology (St. Louis, November 2008) and the Society for the Study of Social Problems (San Francisco, August 2009).
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