The Crime Conundrum: Essays on Criminal Justice

By Lawrence M. Friedman; George Fisher | Go to book overview

amendments as a way of "trumping" the liberal and civil libertarian posture of the Supreme Court.

The cases examined here indicate that when the political constituencies that were seeking to advance the values of equal protection and due process found themselves blocked at the national level (notably in the Supreme Court), they turned to other areas of the law. These included local administrative rules (as in the case of deadly force and domestic violence), state statutes (as with many domestic violence reforms), and municipal ordinances (as with citizen review). It is useful to think of these different aspects of the law as "niches of opportunity," representing potential avenues of reform for groups that are blocked in other areas.

In conclusion, then, we can view criminal justice policy over the past twenty-five years in terms of a struggle between competing political perspectives. The conservative war-on-crime orientation has clearly dominated the making of public policy, but the traditional liberal justice orientation has formed an important competing subtheme. The law was the contested ground in this struggle, with each side fighting for control over different aspects of the law to achieve its objectives. We end with a better understanding of the complexity of the process of historical change and a heightened skepticism about sweeping generalizations about the political mood of a given period.


Notes
1.
See Jerome G. Miller, Search and Destroy: African-American Males in the Criminal Justice System ( New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996).
2.
Samuel Walker, Popular Justice: A History of American Criminal Justice, 2d ed. ( New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 1998).
3.
President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society ( New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1968), pp.621-49.
4.
An excellent account of the political events of the period is Fred P. Graham, The Self-Inflicted Wound ( New York: Macmillan, 1970), pp. 2-5.
5.
Personal interview, James Vorenberg.
6.
Walker, Popular Justice; Lawrence M. Friedman, Crime and Punishment in American History ( New York: Basic Books, 1993).
7.
Hazel Erskine, "The Polls: Capital Punishment", in Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 34, 1970, pp. 290-307.
8.
Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics -- 1994, ( Washington, D.C., 1995), p. 540.
9.
Walker, Popular Justice.
10.
Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sourcebook, p. 305.

-206-

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