This Article will attempt to highlight certain important features of the expressive function of criminal law that have been neglected. Bringing these elements into higher relief will add to our understanding of how expressive criminal law works and, in particular, how it can fail to work as intended. This article will look closely at one example of the operation of expressive criminal law. The example comes from the area of criminal drug policy, and will examine how expressive drug laws have functioned in the street subculture of urban minority communities. Part II, describes street ideology and the social meanings of crack dealing and marijuana use. In addition to traditional works of urban sociology, this article will also examine a variety of primary sources, including hip hop music, movies, magazines, poetry, and memoirs. Part III, will outline a few relevant concepts from sociological theory, including strain theory, differential association, labeling theory, and theories of symbolic action. These concepts will help explain why expressive criminal law can have counter-productive effects. Part IV will apply the conclusions of Parts II and III to law and norms scholarship.
Ted Sampsell-Jones, Culture and Contempt: The Limitations of Expressive Criminal Law, 27 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 133 (2003).