CLBR Featured Segment: Rena Steinzor and Should Corp Offenders Go to Jail

Rena Steinzor and Should Corp Offenders Go to Jail

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Why Not Jail?: Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance and Government Inaction

The U.S. Department of Justice is under fire for failing to prosecute banks that caused the 2008 economic meltdown because they are too big to jail. Prosecutors have long neglected to hold corporate executives accountable for chronic mistakes that kill and injure workers and customers. This book, the first of its kind, analyzes five industrial catastrophes that have killed or sickened consumers and workers or caused irrevocable harm to the environment. From the Texas City refinery explosion to the Upper Big Branch mine collapse to the destruction of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and extending to incidents of food and drug contamination that have killed or injured hundreds, the root causes of these preventable disasters include crimes of commission and omission. Although federal prosecutors have made a start on holding low-level managers liable, far more aggressive prosecution is appropriate as a matter of law, policy, and justice. Written in accessible and jargon-free language, this book recommends innovative interpretations of existing laws to elevate the prosecution of white-collar crime at the federal and state levels.

Upper Big Branch Mine

Downing Labs


Prof. Rena Steinzor

Rena Steinzor is a Professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and teaches an environmental survey course, as well as offerings in risk assessment, critical issues in law and science, legal methods, contracts, and an introduction to the administrative system. During the course of her academic career, Professor Steinzor has written extensively on efforts to reinvent environmental regulation in the United States, the use and misuse of science in environmental policy making, and the devolution of legal and administrative authority to the states.

Professor Steinzor edited the book A New Progressive Agenda for Public Health and the Environment (Carolina Academic Press 2005) with Professor Christopher Schroeder of the Duke Law School.  The book proposes an alternative set of values and principles that should guide efforts to reform environmental law.  She worked with Professor Wendy Wagner of the University of Texas School of Law, to edit a book of essays by prominent academics entitled Rescuing Science from Politics (Cambridge University Press, 2005) writing an introduction and conclusion summarizing the issues and recommendations suggested by the book.  Professor Steinzor’s book entitled Mother Earth and Uncle Sam: How Pollution and Hollow Government Hurt Our Kids was published by the University of Texas Press in the fall of 2007.

Professor Steinzor is the president of the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) (www.progressivereform.org), a think tank comprised of some 52 member scholars from universities across the United States. CPR is committed to developing and sharing knowledge and information, with the ultimate aim of preserving the fundamental value of the life and health of human beings and the natural environment. One component of CPR’s mission is to circulate academic papers, studies, and other analyses that promote public policy based on the multiple social values that motivated the enactment of our nation’s health, safety and environmental laws. CPR seeks to inform the public about scholarship that envisions government as an arena where members of society choose and preserve their collective values. CPR rejects the idea that government’s only function is to increase the economic efficiency of private markets.

Before joining the law school faculty, Professor Steinzor was the partner in charge of the environmental practice at Spiegel & McDiarmid, a Washington D.C. Law firm specializing in the representation of state and local government entities in the energy and environmental areas. Prior to joining the firm, Professor Steinzor was counsel to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Transportation & Tourism of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which was then chaired by James J. Florio (D-N.J.). She advised the Subcommittee during its consideration of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 and the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986. She also served as an attorney advisor to Commissioner Patricia P. Bailey of the Federal Trade Commission and worked as a consumer protection attorney at the FTC in various staff positions.

Professor Steinzor is a 1976 graduate of Columbia Law School and a 1971 graduate of the University of Wisconsin.


About UMd Carey School of Law

The University of Maryland is among the leading law schools today in terms of thought leadership on issue affecting cyber law and policy.  It is the third-oldest law school in the country as is housed in the Nathan Patz Law Center, is a state-of-the-art facility that opened in 2002.

Unlike the undergraduate program, which is located in the Washington suburb of College Park, UMd Law is located in downtown Baltimore.

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About Center for Progressive Reform

The Center for Progressive Reform is a nonprofit research and educational organization with a network of Member Scholars working to protect health, safety, and the environment through analysis and commentary.

CPR’s Values

CPR believes sensible safeguards in these areas serve important shared values, including doing the best we can to prevent harm to people and the environment, distributing environmental harms and benefits fairly, and protecting the earth for future generations. CPR rejects the view that the economic efficiency of private markets should be the only value used to guide government action. Rather, CPR supports thoughtful government action and reform to advance the well-being of human life and the environment. Additionally, CPR believes people play a crucial role in ensuring both private and public sector decisions that result in improved protection of consumers, public health and safety, and the environment. Accordingly, CPR supports ready public access to the courts, enhanced public participation, and improved public access to information.

Current laws and the civil justice system have substantially enhanced protection of people and the environment. But flagging enforcement of regulations and increasing restrictions on people’s rights to seek redress for their injuries in the courts have significantly undermined many of these protections. Many serious threats remain largely unaddressed. In addition, novel technological developments present potential new dangers that must be managed. CPR therefore seeks to restore and preserve existing regulatory and common law methods of protection that are under attack by regulated industries and the think tanks and lobbying organizations they support. In addition, CPR supports developing new or revised ways to protect people and the environment. Such reforms include providing individuals with more and better information about health, safety, financial and environmental risks, and holding companies responsible for the full range of their risk-producing actions through new forms of corporate governance. CPR also works to open the regulatory process to greater public scrutiny, particularly by facilitating the participation of groups representing the public interest that are often hobbled by restrictions on their ability to access information upon which decision-makers rely.

CPR’s Issues

CPR’s core issue areas are health, safety and the environment. Member Scholars’ work in this area touches on such topics as:

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