Thinking about Crime : Sense and Sensibility in American Penal Culture
But is this really what average Americans think about crime and crime control measures? Or is the "no holds barred" approach merely another oscillation in an ongoing cycle of intolerance and tolerance in American thinking? Have prevailing but short-lived sensibilities on crime overruled our common sense?
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. Fueled by knee-jerk rhetoric and moral panics, the current crime control regime is founded on short-term thinking and the personal
ambitions of politicians terrified of appearing "soft on crime," rather than on policies that work.
Tonry demonstrates that attitudes toward crime in America are cyclical. 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 are very different. The evolution of the war on drugs is an example; sentencing grew steadily harsher long after the drug problem itself eased. 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.
A spirited manifesto rooted in a lifetime of crime expertise, Tonry's book calls on politician and policymakers to choose the right path, not the easy or politically expedient one. 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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- Paperback | 272 pages
- 140 x 210 x 18mm | 316g
- 27 Apr 2006
- Oxford University Press Inc
- New York, United States
- Revised ed.
- 18 line drawings
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29 Jan 2009
18 Nov 2004
Table of contents
suggestions for bringing restraint back into the punishment process. This is an important book that should be widely read and discussed." -Al Blumstein, co-editor of The Crime Drop "No one would have chosen the criminal justice system America now has....it is too severe, too expensive and locks up too many black and poor Americans. In this brilliant book, Michael Tonry shows how things came to be as they are and how they can be made better." -Carol Moseley Braun, former U.S. Senator, Illinois "Norval Morris recommended this manuscript to me-and what a great recommendation that turned out to be. Here we have solid insights into a system gone awry. The cost is needless suffering and huge distortions in our spending priorities." -Paul Simon, former U.S. Senator, Illinois "Anyone making criminal justice policy should read Thinking About Crime. In this book, Michael Tonry closely examines the very different ways nations have responded to changing crime patterns and shifting cultural sensibilities over the past several decades. In so doing, he offers an intriguing analysis of how and why the United States has emerged at the beginning of the twenty-first century with by far the most punitive but by no means the most effective
punishment policy. His ability to navigate complexities and render them obvious, makes this important book a pleasure to read." -Bill Bradley, former U.S. Senator, New Jersey "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."-Law and Politics Book Review Thinking about Crime is a lively and lucid account of the dramatic changes in penal policy in the US, with a cogent critique of their effectiveness and justice."-Times Literary Supplement 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
About Michael Tonry
Canada, to national government agencies in European countries, and to international organizations.