The Handbook of Crime & Punishment

The Handbook of Crime & Punishment

The Handbook of Crime & Punishment

The Handbook of Crime & Punishment


Crime is one of the most significant political issues in contemporary American society. Crime control statistics and punishment policies are subjects of constant partisan debate, while the media presents sensationalized stories of criminal activity and over-crowded prisons. In the highly politicized arena of crime and justice, empirical data and reasoned analysis are often overlook or ignored. The Handbook of Crime and Punishment, however, provides a comprehensive overview of criminal justice, criminology, and crime control policy, thus enabling a fundamental understanding of crime and punishment essential to an informed public. Expansive in its coverage, the Handbook presents materials on crime and punishment trends as well as timely policy issues. The latest research on the demography of crime (race, gender, drug use) is included and weighty current problems (organized crime, white collar crime, family violence, sex offenders, youth gangs, drug abuse policy) are examined. Processes and institutions that deal with accused and convicted criminals and techniques of punishment are also examined. While some articles emphasize American research findings and developments, others incorporate international research and offer a comparative perspective from other English-speaking countries and Western Europe. Editor Michael Tonry, a leading scholar of criminology, introduces the 28 articles in the volume, each contributed by an expert in the field. Designed for a wide audience, The Handbook is encyclopedic in its range and depth of content, yet is written in an accessible style. The most inclusive and authoritative work on the topic to be found in one volume, this book will appeal to those interested in the study of crime and its causes, effects, trends, and institutions; those interested in the forms and philosophies of punishment; and those interested in crime control.


Crime and punishment have been at the center of American political and public policy agendas for a quarter century. The debates have changed little over time. To many on the right, crime is the product primarily of bad character, irresponsibility, and morally bad choices. Punishment is the answer, and it remains the answer despite a fivefold increase since 1972 in the number of people confined in prisons and jails.

To many on the left, crime is the product primarily of disadvantage, deteriorated cities, and disappointed dreams. Improved social policies aimed at improving the life chances of the worst-off and equalizing the life chances of all are the answer, and they remain the answer despite a quarter century of failed social programs and policies.

In the United States in the 1990s, the conservative view of crime and punishment is ascendant, and swollen prisons and underfunded social programs are the consequence; but it has not always been that way and will not always be. During much of this century, American crime and punishment policies were no harsher than those of other Western countries, and less harsh than some. Today those policies are vastly harsher than in any other country to which the United States would normally be compared.

In a sensible world, no matter what the prevailing political mood, people would want to form their opinions and public officials to base their decisions on the most reliable current knowledge. This book attempts-- in a single volume--to distill current knowledge on most important subjects relating to crime and punishment in modern America.

Some day a book like this one will draw on writers from around the globe, but this is not yet that day. However, when the subject matter of an essay or the multinational character of the relevant literature allowed, articles for this book were solicited from scholars in other English-speaking countries and in Europe. The writers are among the most knowledgeable on their subjects in the English-speaking world. Although treatment of some subjects, such as sentencing or public prosecution, requires focus on one country's institutions and policies--necessarily for this book those in the United States--treatment of other subjects was not so con-

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