has truth-in-sentencing provisions in effect for repeat violent and drug offenders. The most striking thing about these conditions is that they require a state to show it is acting tough by sentencing first-time felons to significant amounts of prison time or by demonstrating it has recently increased penalties. The law does not, however, create any standards as to how long these sentences must be. 30
In this essay, I have asserted that the dominant ideological coalition in American criminal justice changed at some point in the 1970s. I have argued that prior to that time, crime policy was dominated by a coalition of social welfare liberals and crime control adherents, who believed in social work/rehabilitation methods of controlling crime. This coalition broke apart when both of these groups abandoned rehabilitation, though for different reasons. This coalition was replaced by a coalition of crime control adherents and legal moralists.
This does not appear to be the end of the story, however. The 1994 federal Crime Bill offers some limited proof that a social work approach to crime policy may be showing some feeble signs of life. After ten years in which Congress passed very little in the way of crime policy that was not punitive, the 1994 crime bill included about seven billion dollars for "crime prevention" programs, which included (among other things) jobs programs and community programs designed to provide for social needs of at-risk youth. In an era in which governments nationwide are fiscally strapped, we may soon be entering an era in which the legal moralist impulse to "get tough" may soon seem prohibitively expensive, while social programs may start to appear relatively cheap.