The Challenge of Crime: Rethinking Our Response / Edition 1

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The development of crime policy in the United States for many generations has been hampered by a drastic shortage of knowledge and data, an excess of partisanship and instinctual responses, and a one-way tendency to expand the criminal justice system. Even if a three-decade pattern of prison growth came to a full stop in the early 2000s, the current decade will be by far the most punitive in U.S. history, hitting some minority communities particularly hard.

The book examines the history, scope, and effects of the revolution in America's response to crime since 1970. Henry Ruth and Kevin Reitz offer a comprehensive, long-term, pragmatic approach to increase public understanding of and find improvements in the nation's response to crime. Concentrating on meaningful areas for change in policing, sentencing, guns, drugs, and juvenile crime, they discuss such topics as new priorities for the use of incarceration; aggressive policing; the war on drugs; the need to switch the gun control debate to a focus on crime gun regulation; a new focus on offenders' transition from confinement to freedom; and the role of private enterprise.

A book that rejects traditional liberal and conservative outlooks, The Challenge of Crime takes a major step in offering new approaches for the nation's responses to crime.

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Editorial Reviews

Having displaced both South Africa and the former Soviet Union as the world's top jailor, America urgently needs the kind of unflinching analysis offered by these two leading authorities on dealing with crime. The authors show why our police, state prosecutors, juvenile courts, and penitentiaries have grown increasingly punitive in the three-and-a-half decades since Lyndon Johnson's 1967 National Crime Commission, which stressed the rehabilitation of offenders and the establishment of government programs for the disadvantaged as the best hope for reversing the alarming upsurge in crime...Balanced and sober, an indispensable reference for students of criminal justice.
— Bryce Christensen
Ruth and Reitz compellingly argue that crime control policies are dramatically flawed and that sweeping changes are essential, for reasons ranging from financial crises to moral legitimacy. The cogency of their argument and the abundance of their timely data merits careful attention and will be eye-opening to most readers.
— R. Zingraff
European Legacy
This important study by two leading experts on criminology and criminal law in the U.S. should be read wherever the policy of being 'tough on crime' is on the political agenda. The authors provide a wealth of descriptive, historical and statistical data, a competent methodological critique of their quality, a critical examination of explanations, and carefully argued policy recommendations...In depressing detail Ruth and Reitz show how punishment of the already deprived makes things worse for them and their kin. This book shows us some of the inadequacies of our approaches and their disastrous consequences for the most vulnerable.
— Ib Martin Jarvad
Perspectives on Political Science
The Challenge of Crime is a timely, practical, well-reasoned book that is required reading for anyone interested in justice...It should prove illuminating to politicians, policymakers, and anyone interested in how to fix our response to crime.
— Craig Hemmens
Washington Post
The Challenge of Crime is a remarkable book...In essence, [it] is a morality tale. Ruth and Reitz capably highlight many of the wrongs of contemporary crime policies and practices and detail how they can be corrected. Will those invited into the conversation do more than listen?
— Katheryn Russell-Brown
The Washington Post
After explaining key issues, including crime rates, gun control, drugs, prisons and juvenile offenses, the authors provide an overall report card for the American justice system. In a thoughtful, calm discussion, Ruth and Reitz consider how the liberal justice paradigm of the 1960s came to be replaced by a conservative one. They detail why the contemporary scheme of justice -- plagued by rising incarceration, growing racial disparities, increasing prosecutorial powers and rising sanctions for nonviolent offenses -- deserves further scrutiny. To put it simply, they pull back the curtain on the justice system, and the results are none too pretty: an uninformed public; divisive, politically motivated crime policies; scattered, unnuanced research analyses; inaccurate labels; and a system with minimal checks and balances. — Katheryn Russell-Brown
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674008915
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/5/2003
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Henry Ruth has served in many criminal justice roles, including the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, the Deputy Attorney General's Office of the U.S. Department of Justice, and President Lyndon Johnson's National Crime Commission.

Kevin R. Reitz is Professor of Law, University of Colorado.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures
Introduction 1
1 Crime and Punishment: A Brief American History 9
2 Knowledge and Assessment 39
3 The Current Era of Crime Response Policy 67
4 Prisons and Jails 92
5 Public and Private Paths to Security from Crime 118
6 Guns, Crime, and Crime Gun Regulation 167
7 Crime, Alcohol, and Illegal Drugs 206
8 Juvenile Crime 250
The Future 283
Notes 291
Index 361
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