But the criminal, just like any other "individual," cannot be thought outside of the society inside which he was incubated. The very existence of the criminal is an indictment against the conditions that made possible that criminal: poverty, racism, classism, entrenched cultural notions of our relationship and responsibility to and for the Other. The criminal is an effect, rarely a cause. Indeed, if we are to have a theory of human freedom that has any force, there must be a corresponding notion of individual responsibility. But just as we cannot simply excuse the individual's responsibility to society, so too can we not simply excuse society's responsibilities to the individual.
Crime is not simply an opposing logic, or something a-logical; rather, crime is the apotheosis of the logic of a society. Crime is the shining forth of the both the consequences and contradictions that are inherent in a society's logic. Behind the veneer of wealth, equality, opportunity, and justice that are so precious to American's understanding of themselves, necessarily exists heart-wrenching poverty, appalling inequality, and egregious injustice, Americans who are "citizens" and bearers of abstract rights, but not in any qualitative or concrete sense, members that are non-members, effectively excluded from the political, economic, and cultural processes that constitute "America." This exclusion cannot be simply explained away in terms of an "individual's choice"—an account must be made of the historical, economic, social, and political forces that circumscribe the field of possible choice, that cultivate what comes to be called an "individual" in the first place.
Thumbnail image is from here.