Ransom Kidnapping in America, 1874-1974: The Creation of a Capital Crime


Relatively unknown in this country before 1874, when the first ransom kidnapping as we know it took place, the incidence of the crime has since burgeoned to a recorded number of some 1,700 cases. In 1874, the act constituted a crime only in a handful of jurisdictions, and in those states the maximum penalty was seven years imprisonment. Subsequent laws, and the making of the act a federal capital crime in the 1930s when the Lindbergh kidnapping outraged public sentiment, evolved slowly, the author of this unusually interesting work shows.

In this first attempt to bring together and analyze all known sociological and historical information on this important segment of American crime and crime control, Ernest K. Alix dispels the myth of the importance of the Lindbergh case in changing attitudes and establishing social values. Not even the evolving laws, Alix contends, were the direct reflection of the will of the majority. Second, the entire subject has been prone to error and ideological misinterpretation which only a close examination of the facts and a careful interpretation of the results can overcome.

The importance of the work lies in its integrated treatment of crime and law. It will be invaluable to students and professionals in allied fields.

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