The Community Justice Ideal: Preventing Crime and Achieving Justice

The Community Justice Ideal: Preventing Crime and Achieving Justice

The Community Justice Ideal: Preventing Crime and Achieving Justice

The Community Justice Ideal: Preventing Crime and Achieving Justice

Excerpt

There is disquiet in America about what is happening to community life. Americans seem to have a sense that the quality of community life is diminishing and that family life is deteriorating. There is widespread talk about the need to "restore" the community and family, and many feel that a crisis of values is occurring in both the public and the private spheres of American life. Some of this is almost certainly nostalgia and sentimentalism. To the degree that the "community movement" is a romantic appeal to an inaccurate recollection of the past, it is an interlude destined for a short life.

But other, more objective indicators suggest that community life is indeed changing in America and that many citizens' concerns are justified. Some of these changes involve distance and technology: With our growing use of computers and involvement in international markets, the world is increasingly everyone's neighborhood. Other changes appear more rooted in socioeconomic trends; the increasing inequality and structural distance between social groups, combined with fewer intact families raising children, cause many observers to worry that the infrastructure of good citizenship is deteriorating. People move from place to place, and at every turn their children are confronted by technical, social, and interpersonal change. With our society undergoing such rapid transformation, people worry about whether the foundations of democratic life are strong enough to take us very far into the future.

These changes have enormous implications for criminal justice. As people begin to feel and express their alienation from institutional life, including political institutions, their actions cannot help but spill over into the formal mechanisms of social control. In a quarter century, the size, cost, and potency of the justice apparatus has grown three to five times over, depending on how one counts the growth. Public confidence in the justice system is, if anything, less than when the growth began. Surely if the justice system were put up for a vote of confidence, the prospects would be dim. One way of interpreting this situation is that people have little confidence that the justice system supports the quality of daily life.

The movement of criminal justice toward the community initiatives described in this book is a response to the common sense of dismay about community life. Criminal justice officials, sensing that confidence in their actions is slipping away, have sought a closer alignment with community . . .

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