Thinking about Crime: Sense and Sensibility in American Penal Culture

Overview

In this wide-ranging analysis, Michael Tonry argues that those responsible for crafting America's criminal justice policy have lost their way in a forest of good intentions, political cynicism, and public anxieties. American crime control politics over time have created a punishment system no one would knowingly have chosen yet one that no one seems able to change. Prevailing sensibilities rather than timeless truths govern the American war on crime, resulting in policies both wasteful and harsh. U.S. crime ...

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Overview

In this wide-ranging analysis, Michael Tonry argues that those responsible for crafting America's criminal justice policy have lost their way in a forest of good intentions, political cynicism, and public anxieties. American crime control politics over time have created a punishment system no one would knowingly have chosen yet one that no one seems able to change. Prevailing sensibilities rather than timeless truths govern the American war on crime, resulting in policies both wasteful and harsh. U.S. crime trends closely resemble those of other nations, yet American policies, shaped by different sensibilities, are much more punitive.

Seamlessly blending history with an easy presentation of day-to-day realities and empirical evidence, Tonry proposes tangible, specific solutions that can serve as a platform for criminal justice reform. We know how to create an effective and humane criminal justice system. Now we must have the courage to do so, by abandoning the current status quo, which is both costly and cruel in favor of practices that will move America closer to the mainstream of contemporary Western values.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Thinking about Crime is a lively analysis of American exceptionalism in penal policy, depicting and explaining the United States crime control industry's position as the unquestioned behemoth among Western nations."—Times Literary Supplement

"Thinking About Crime is a provocative and important book that should be required reading for policymakers and students of criminal justice. Tonry presents a convincing and carefully crafted analysis of contemporary crime control policies, which he contends are overly severe, wasteful, and unfair. Using historical and cross-national data, he demonstrates that the harshly punitive policies adopted by the United States—but rejected by policymakers in other Western countries—have been shaped by American sensibilities toward crime, criminals, and punishment. Tonry's prescriptions for reform are reasonable; following them will produce a more humane and effective criminal justice system."—The Law and Politics Book Review

"Along with his eminence, knowledge and powers of clear analysis, Tonry also has an approachable stylewhich makes this book one for the intelligent layperson as well as the academic. Some of those reading this book will wonder at the disjuncture presented here between the evidence with which Tonry lucidly supports his case for a more liberal penality and the contemporary American conventional wisdom that harsh punishment is the answer to crime. But as well as making this case, Thinking about Crime is also an investigation into why the US has become so punitive, despite the compelling rational arguments against this."—Crime, Media, Culture

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195304909
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/7/2006
  • Series: Studies in Crime and Public Policy Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 984,683
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Tonry is one of the nation's most respected experts on crime and punishment. The author of the highly acclaimed Malign Neglect and (with Norval Morris) Between Prison and Probation, he is Sonosky Professor of Law and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota. He has worked as an advisor to federal and state agencies in the United States, Australia and Canada, to national government agencies in European countries, and to international organizations.

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Table of Contents

1. Sense and Sensibility in American Penal Culture
2. Why So Many Americans Are in Prison
3. Cycles and Sensibilities
4. Moral Panics and "Windows of Opportunity"
5. Crime Trends and the Effects of Crime Control
6. Formerly Unthinkable Policies
7. Unthought Thoughts
8. Better Understanding, People, and Policies
References
Index

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