Why Not Jail?

by Matt Shudtz | December 16, 2014

When 29 miners died at Upper Big Branch or 11 workers died on the Deepwater Horizon, when 64 people died from tainted steroids, or when hundreds got Salmonella poisoning from peanut butter, did you ask yourself, 'Why not send the people responsible to jail?'

You're not the only one. In her new book, Why Not Jail: Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction, CPR President Rena Steinzor asks the same question and concludes:

The criminal justice system is as important to the ultimate embodiment of a society's values as it is in keeping the public peace. ... When the vicious cycle of racially discriminatory mass incarceration of poor people is juxtaposed against the vivid descriptions of the crimes committed by well-heeled corporate executives, it is hard to imagine the contrast does not have a corrosive effect on people's confidence in government institutions. Quite apart from the intrinsic unfairness of the failure to prosecute white collar crime far more aggressively, we sacrifice the benefits of deterring events that harm ordinary people.

Why Not Jail is available now on Amazon (including a Kindle edition) and from the publisher, Cambridge University Press. It's a great read, using five case studies to explore the problems--and potential--for criminally prosecuting corporate malfeasance that harms public health, worker and consumer safety, and the environment. Order one now for yourself and your ...

Auto Safety Bill Takes Some Bruises in the Senate; Automakers Try for More

by Lena Pons | July 27, 2010
The Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010 (H.R. 5381/S. 3302), the primary legislation on the table in response to the Toyota unintended acceleration fiasco, went through the committee process in the House and Senate earlier this summer. The bills, as introduced, included some tough provisions to respond to gaps exposed by the Toyota episode. Among important reforms included in the bills currently: More public access to NHTSA’s early warning information database; standards for accelerator control and brake override; a standard ...

Toyota: Should Someone Go to Jail?

by Rena Steinzor | March 01, 2010
The congressional hearings so far on “sudden unintended acceleration” (SUA) in Toyota cars should have made two truths obvious to Washington policymakers. First, the strategy of counting on major manufacturers to voluntarily ensure that their consumer products are safe is unworkable in a competitive market, and second, safety agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) need to walk softly but carry a very large stick. Gone are the days when we could reasonably expect government technical experts to ...

Waxman and Stupak Release Documents on Eve of Toyota / NHTSA Hearing

by Ben Somberg | February 22, 2010
Representatives Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak have released a batch of documents this afternoon on the day before their committee hearing on the Toyota debacle. Their focus is largely on the issue of the possible role of electronic failures as a cause of sudden unintended acceleration cases. They criticized Toyota's response to the reports of electronic problems, and in their letter to transportaiton secretary Ray LaHood, say: Our preliminary review of the documents and the information learned from the meetings with NHTSA officials raises two ...

The Toyota Fiasco: Where Were the Regulators?

by Rena Steinzor | February 22, 2010
Saturday’s Washington Post crystallized a trend of reporting in recent days showing that neither misaligned floor mats nor defective pedals are to blame for all acceleration problems in Toyota cars, at least not in the 2005 model Camry. The car, which has neither piece of offending equipment, does have electronic acceleration controls that are beginning to emerge as a potential cause of the problem. If those computerized systems are at the heart of even a small universe of Toyota’s problems, ...

Congress Says Ask, but Toyota and Fellow Automakers Say Don't Tell: The Story of NHTSA and Industry Secrecy

by Shana Campbell Jones | February 22, 2010
Ten years ago, after NHTSA received reports of numerous deaths and injuries linked to Firestone tires and Ford Explorers, Congress passed the TREAD Act, bolstering the authority of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to identify possible defects in vehicles and tires by collecting information (“early warning data”) from auto and tire manufacturers. The law requires disclosure of data about incidents involving deaths or injuries, injury and property damage claims (including lawsuits), consumer complaints, warranty claims, field reports (problems ...

The Toyota Debacle and NHTSA's Role: What Congress Must Investigate

by Ben Somberg | February 09, 2010
In a letter today, CPR President Rena Steinzor and board member Sidney Shapiro recommend to Congress questions it should investigate to get to the bottom of the Toyota accelerator/recall matter that's all over the news. The letter focuses in particular on the role of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and examines the agency's shortcomings in achieving its mission to protect public safety. To be clear, the Toyota case is about much more than engineering failure. It is a ...

Toyota Says It Has Found Fix; LAT and NYT Articles Raise More Questions

by Ben Somberg | February 01, 2010
Toyota is on the media offensive this morning, announcing that it has found the problem (sticking pedals, it says) and is fixing it. Some articles indicated NHTSA has signed off or given "clearance" for the plan, but Toyota specifically noted that while NHTSA had reviewed its plan, it has not "signed off" on it, as it doesn't have the power to do so. Two articles in particular have raised further questions. The LATimes published its investigation over the weekend, questioning ...

Where is NHTSA? Toyota Recall and the Missing Regulator

by Sidney Shapiro | January 28, 2010
When my children were growing up, they loved the “Where’s Waldo” book series. Each page had an illustrated picture chock full of people and objects; hidden somewhere among the mass of detail was a small picture of a cartoon character named Waldo. When the Toyota Motor Corporation announced this week that it was stopping the production and sales of several of its car models because of a dangerous problem with unintended acceleration, we had a “Where’s Waldo” scenario. The National ...

Toyota Cars and Automobile Regulation, Still Defective: Recall Could Miss a Million Faulty Cars. Congress Should Investigate.

by Sidney Shapiro | November 25, 2009
This morning, Toyota Motor Corporation announced it intends to replace accelerator pedals on about 3.8 million recalled vehicles in the United States because the pedals can get stuck in a floor mat. But the recall could still leave more than a million faulty cars on the road. As I wrote earlier, there had been over 2,000 reports from the owners of Toyota cars that they have surged forward without warning reaching speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. NHTSA ...

Defective: Toyota Cars and Automobile Regulation

by Sidney Shapiro | November 12, 2009
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently chastised the Toyota Motor Company for claiming that no defect existed in its cars, even while recalling 3.8 million of them. Toyota instituted the recall one month after a Lexus sedan suddenly accelerated out of control killing four people near San Diego. When Toyota blamed the problem on improperly installed floor mats, NHTSA said it expected the company to provide a “suitable vehicle solution.” The company then said that it was working on “vehicle-based remedies” ...

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