The Institutional Environment
Habits of legality manifested in the administration of criminal justice are products of a wide variety of influences. One of the most important of these is the level of unease produced in the community by the perceived threats to life, limb, and property arising from criminal activity. The fear of crime encompasses the most basic and primitive human concerns and, if widespread and acute, may create a crisis of confidence in the capacities of legal institutions to perform their essential functions. In such periods concerns about abuses of governmental authority by police, prosecutors, and judicial officers, as they wield the most stringent sanctions of government, tend to be engulfed in the deeper fears of criminal victimization. At such times the traditions of legality are not wholly or suddenly abandoned, but the social and political environment is one increasingly unfavorable to the habits of legality.
Periods of intense concern about the prevalence and seriousness of crime have emerged at frequent intervals throughout our history. Indeed, one of the most acute and portentous manifestations of such unease arose in the years immediately following the American Revolution. 1 In the past, such periods were short lived; public attention was soon diverted by other apparently more pressing problems and crises. Typically, also, the problems perceived tended to