The Crime Conundrum: Essays on Criminal Justice

By Lawrence M. Friedman; George Fisher | Go to book overview
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Ideology and American Crime Policy,
1966-1996: An Exploratory Essay

Daniel Krislov

Theories about criminal justice policy might be divided, somewhat crudely, into three basic approaches -- social work, crime control, and legal moralism. The social work approach is based upon the idea that the function of the criminal justice system is the integration of the offender into society as a law-abiding member. Crime is seen as a double tragedy, hurting its victims but also reflecting how society has harmed the offender. Social work attempts to address the latter aspect of the tragedy by repairing the damage caused by inadequacies in the offender's upbringing and environment, or by repairing the defects in that environment.

Instead of focusing its efforts primarily on the needs of offenders, crime control, as the name implies, is focused on minimizing the amount of crime in society. 1 According to this approach, society should find the most efficient manner of achieving this task and implement it. Crime control theorists would concern themselves with rehabilitation of the offender only if it could be shown that rehabilitation would be more efficient than other methods of control.

Legal moralism is also concerned with the reduction of crime, but for different reasons. While crime control seeks to limit crime because of its


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