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Erik Johnson Lab Site Environmental Crime Project

I have initiated, with Dr. Jennifer Schwartz, WSU sociology, a project examining the population of criminally prosecuted environmental offenses from 1983-2010. Environmental crime, virtually unheard of before 1970 when it was regularly accepted practice to dump (toxic) wastes directly into air, water and/or unlined pits as part of routine industrial activity, is now the focus of an Environmental Crimes Section at the US Department of Justice that employs some 40 full-time prosecutors (DOJ 2012). Yet scholars know surprisingly little about environmental crimes, with sociological research in the nascent field of green criminology dominated by epistemological debates and calls for more research (e.g., White 2008; Lynch & Stretsky 2003; 2012). We ask what is defined as serious environmental criminal acts, how that changes over time, and how relevant cases compare to more commonly studies administrative and civil environmental violations as well as to other types of white collar crimes that are the regular province of criminology. A Meyer Faculty seed grant is funding the collection of data necessary to complete two initial papers and prepare an extended line of inquiry in this area.

Our research on gendered patterns of offending in environmental crime groups was presented at a regular session of the ASAs this past summer, and additional data collection will allow for important re-analysis on a larger set of cases and submission for peer-reviewed publication.


Department of Justice.  2012.  “Historical Development of Environmental Criminal Law.”  Accessed 4/30/2013

Lynch, Michael and Paul Stretsky. 2003. The meaning of green: Contrasting criminological perspectives. Theoretical Criminology 7:217-238.

— 2012.  “Green Criminology.”  Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory.  Francis T. Cullen and Pamela Wilcox (eds.).  Oxford University Press.

White, Rob.  2008.  Crimes Against Nature: Environmental Criminology and Ecological Justice.  Cornwall, UK: Willan Publishing.