Criminal Lessons: Case Studies and Commentary on Crime and Justice

Criminal Lessons: Case Studies and Commentary on Crime and Justice

Criminal Lessons: Case Studies and Commentary on Crime and Justice

Criminal Lessons: Case Studies and Commentary on Crime and Justice


Why do people commit crimes? How can crime be prevented? And what can society and criminal justice professionals do to implement constructive responses to criminal behavior? Summarizing what he has learned about crime and criminals during his long career, one of social work's most distinguished theoreticians speculates about the factors that lead to crime and considers what we can do to prevent and respond to it meaningfully. Criminal Lessons is based on more than thirteen thousand cases in which Frederic G. Reamer has been involved as a parole board member, a role that was supplemented by his earlier experiences working in a federal correctional facility, a state penitentiary, and a forensic unit in a state psychiatric hospital.

Reamer presents an original and compelling typology of crime that classifies offenders on the basis of the circumstances that led to their offenses. He isolates seven categories, tracing crime to desperation, greed, rage, revenge, frolic, addiction, or mental illness. Using actual case studies to illustrate these patterns of 'criminal circumstances,' Reamer presents a model for the prevention of, and response to, crime and throughout the book offers recommendations related to social services, criminal justice, and public policy.


Like many people—the general public, politicians, human service professionals, and professionals in the criminal justice field—I have spent years trying to understand crime and criminals. My journey started early. I clearly recall my first horror-filled realization that some people commit crimes so serious that they are imprisoned. When I was six years old my father took my older brother and me to the local library in my Baltimore neighborhood. While a librarian assisted my brother, I scanned books on the lower shelves in the stacks. Quite by accident my eyes landed on a book jacket that featured a photograph of an inmate in a prison cell. Intrigued, I reached for the book and sat on the floor staring at photo after photo. I remember feeling startled, curious, and unnerved. What, I wondered, had these people done to deserve being locked up in these cages? Why would these men do such terrible things? What was it like for them to be in prison?

During many subsequent trips to that library, I headed straight for that book. In a sense, I still have not put it down. Little did I know then that my naive fascination at six would turn into a lifelong preoccupation with these questions. Along the way I have spent considerable time working with convicted criminals. My tour of duty has included a stint as a group worker and social worker in a U.S. Bureau of Prisons institution in Chicago in the mid1970s (the Metropolitan Correctional Center), the maximum-security state penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri, in the early 1980s, and the forensic unit of the state psychiatric hospital in Rhode Island in the mid-1980s. Since 1992 I have served on the Rhode Island Parole Board.

This book sums up what I have learned from these experiences about crime and criminals. It is based primarily on the more than thirteen thousand . . .

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