Friday evening I watched the Netflix documentary ‘How to Fix a Drug Scandal’ – a very interesting example of organisational crime and harm. The four-part series tells the story of two (unconnected) lab chemists, one in Amherst, West Massachusetts and one in Boston, East Massachusetts. Each were from stable homes, were academically successful and took jobs as analysts in state crime labs, doing routine work testing drugs seized as evidence by police. Neither were ‘dangerous’ or ‘evil’ per se, but each committed crimes through complex motivations, as explored in the documentary.
Apart from the individual stories, what comes out strongly in the documentary is how organisational culture (high-volume but not highly paid, low-profile, thankless work, with a pressure on getting ‘results’) and a stunning lack of supervision or oversight on the work produced or the welfare of employees. Their actions threatened the security of thousands of drugs convictions – although the state authorities were reluctant to acknowledge that impact, preferring instead to demarcate both cases as recent and limited in scope. As one of the speakers in the documentary says, the official focus was on ‘containment’ rather than ‘truth and justice’. Worth a watch.
© Natasha Mulvihill and Criminology Tales, 2020.
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