Crime and Justice

Crime and Justice

by Michael Tonry

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Building a Safer Society transcends national and disciplinary boundaries to summarize what is known about different strategic approaches to crime prevention. Some strategies include preventing criminal potential in high-risk groups, changing social conditions that influence crime, and reducing opportunities for the occurrence of crime. The contributors explore various…  See more details below


Building a Safer Society transcends national and disciplinary boundaries to summarize what is known about different strategic approaches to crime prevention. Some strategies include preventing criminal potential in high-risk groups, changing social conditions that influence crime, and reducing opportunities for the occurrence of crime. The contributors explore various methods of developmental, community, and situational prevention, as well as traditional law enforcement tactics.

Editorial Reviews

The review seeks to explain the discrepancies in statistical research from various fields of criminal justice, e.g. why complicated patterns yield information contrary to experience. The volume analyzes recent writings on penal communications, delinquency and academic performance, criminal justice literature, and drug use in the US. The essays explore both theories of criminology, and the consequences of crime. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
John Holman
This volume of Crime and Justice contains eight essays reviewing the research on hate crimes, advocacy, probation, and sentencing. Although my comments essentially treat each individual essay separately, I would like to begin by first noting that the overall theme of the text is timely and centered on current criminal justice policy and research areas of extreme interest and concern. The text begins with an essay entitled, "Hate Crimes: A Critical Perspective," by James B. Jacobs and Kimberly A. Potter. This essay is truly exceptional and is, in essence, a primer on hate crimes. The authors present hate crimes as motivated by prejudices and then discuss the nature of prejudices. The article addresses the various types of hate crimes, including related constitutional issues, sentencing enhancement, and incidence and reporting problems. This work also provides a brief discussion of police investigation and judicial processing. The article closes by positing that hate crime laws and their impacts are best understood in terms of symbolic politics. The second essay entitled, "Crime and Conflict: Homicide in Evolutionary Psychological Perspective," by Martin Daly and Margo Wilson falls short of its mark, which is, according to the authors, to "outline an evolutionary psychological perspective," that should "help criminologists generate productive hypotheses and avoid blind alleys." The essay contributes very little to an understanding of exactly what the "evolutionary psychological perspective" is. It leaves the overall impression that this perspective is in fact biological reductionism or determinism. As an example, the essay has a subsection, entitled "Psychological Mechanisms and Processes are Biological Adaptations," in which the authors write "It follows that evolutionary psychologists see no distinction in kind between ‘psychological’ and ‘biological’ phenomena." They further state that, "the only currently available alternative to the theory of evolution by selection is creationism." Although there is no problem with these statements per se, they appear to have little to contribute to the advancement of criminological theory. The authors also make a very unconvincing claim that " The school of criminological thought that is perhaps most congenial to this perspective is the ‘rational choice/routine activities’ approach...." In sum, the essay does provides little in the way of its potential usefulness in criminological explanations. The third essay is Neil Gilbert’s "Advocacy Research and Social Policy." This essay begins with a brief review of the early classic works in advocacy research. Gilbert suggests that the high standards set by earlier works in this area have been eroding since the 1960s. The article explains how advocacy researchers in some instances have manufactured the "hidden crises" and "silent epidemics" that they claim to have discovered. This essay lays bare some of the major faults or flaws with some child sexual abuse, rape, and homeless advocacy research that have been reported in the last couple of decades. The article also highlights many of the techniques/tactics used by some advocacy researchers that allows them to greatly exaggerate the problems they study. Techniques/tactics involve using vaguely or awkwardly worded survey definitions and questions; usingdisclaimers; sampling bias; using other weak research to support their work; and using extreme anecdotal cases supported with weak speculative and/or unscientific quantitative evidence. These erroneous, inflated, and/or inaccurate measures lead to distorted social policies that focus on bogus rather than genuine victims. Joan Petersila’s "Probation in the United States" is the fourth essay. Pertersila points out the current enormous problems probation presents. She discusses the voluminous number of probationers compared to the number of field probation officers available to supervise them. In essence, her position is that the paucity of resources available does not come close to being commensurate with the problem. The essay also highlights the many facets of probation and the fact that probation agencies are most extensively involved with offenders. Petersila advocates a type of probation program that will combine heavy doses of surveillance with treatment. She also argues that punishment should not be equated only with prison. Overall, the essay suggests that much of probation’s potential has yet to be realized, and with additional research, it has the potential of becoming a major force in reducing crime. The fifth essay is "Gender, Race, and Sentencing," by Kathleen Daly and Michael Tonry. This essay discusses the difficulty in explaining the effects of gender and race bias and subordination in sentencing patterns. The authors examine gender and arrests, race and arrests, race and criminal courts, and gender and criminal courts. Equal treatment was and remains a seductive criminal justice ideology. The essay ends with five recommendations for future policy and research. The sixth essay is "Juvenile Justice: Shoring Up the Foundation" by Mark H. Moore and Stewart Wakeling. It proposes that a new mandate for the juvenile court and juvenile justice system needs to be generated. The authors suggest two widely different paths that this mandate could take: a "criminalized" juvenile court path and a broader "family" court path. The authors endorse the latter in what they reconceptualize as courts for "bankrupt" families. Their reconceptualization merges the functions of probate, juvenile, and family court into a more generic one - the "bankrupt" family court. While this new court would retain jurisdiction over juvenile crime, this function would be only one of many. Thus, it becomes somewhat less important to the entire court. The other functions would include all those currently provided by probate (e.g., divorce, child custody, etc.) and juvenile courts (e.g. delinquency cases, status offense cases, abuse and neglect cases, etc.). In essence, these "bankruptcy" courts would serve as a "special master" overseeing families failing their children. They would also have the power to liquidate and/or restructure them. In addition, the new courts would be able to hold both private and public caretakers and the children accountable for living up to their duties to each other. The authors propose that the major difference between these "bankruptcy" courts and current juvenile courts is the "bankruptcy" courts relationship becomes one of mediation rather than one of direct responsibility and control. The essay closes by providing three jurisprudential axioms for supporting the authors proposed family bankruptcy court. The seventh essay, "The Role of Criminal Record in the Sentencing Process," is by Julian V. Roberts. This essay explores policy issues concerning the use of criminal history information, including the roles of criminal records and juvenile adjudications, and whether or not criminal misconduct records should be expunged. Robert supports expungement because of the huge number of individuals with criminal records and because it is a means whereby criminals can earn purging their past of criminal behavior. The essay also discusses recidivist "premium," first offender "discount," and "just desert" issues. The essay closes by suggesting alternate models of a criminal record. The eighth and final essay in the text is by Richard S. Frase. It is entitled "Sentencing Principles in Theory and Practice." This essay focuses on the differences between Norval Morris’s "limiting retributivist" theory of punishment and Andrew von Hirsch’s "just desert" theory and which of the two is more similar to that which has evolved in Minnesota since 1980. Frase concludes that Morris’s theory is more similar to the one that has evolved in Minnesota, than that of von Hirsch.

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Product Details

University of Chicago Press Journals
Publication date:
Crime and Justice: A Review of Research Series, #29
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.00(d)

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