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Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, Volume 37

NCJ Number
Michael Tonry
Date Published
510 pages
Seven of the nine essays in this volume address penal punishment policies and their effects, with a focus on America; and the other two essays examine how successfully economists and criminologists have explained crime, criminality, and the operations of the criminal justice system.
One of the nine essays that critique American penal policies argues that a country's punishment policies for offenders result, not from crime trends or public opinion, but from the deliberate policy choices of governments; these, in turn, are related to income distribution, social welfare spending, and citizens' trust in one another and in government. Two of the nine essays on American penal policy focus on reasons why Black Americans are disproportionately involved in and punished under American penal policy. One explanation is that sentencing for drug and violent crimes are racially disproportionate between Blacks and Whites, both in terms of their proportion of the population and the rate of their involvement in these types of crimes. Blacks are six to seven times more likely than Whites to be in prison. The second of these two essays on racial issues in American penal policy notes that surveys of the public's support for capital punishment have found that Whites are significantly more likely to support capital punishment in America than Blacks. The author argues that these differing attitudes are racially related. Another of the nine essays demonstrates that recent American crime-control policies generally cannot be justified on the basis of their deterrent effect. The other essays in the group of nine address the detrimental effects of imprisonment on certain communities and on inmates' families, and one examines the effects of recent punishment policies on California prisons. The two essays that critique the contributions of economists and criminologists to explanations of crime in general are limited. Chapter references and data tables and figures