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Crime and Punishment in America Paperback – October 15, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (October 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805060162
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805060164
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #937,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The current nationwide drop in violent crime coupled with a continuing economic boom gives us the money and the breathing room to make choices about how we will approach crime in the next century, according to Currie (Reckoning: Drugs, the Cities, and the American Future). In this sobering report, he argues that we will eventually see higher violent- crime rates if we do not put greater resources into antipoverty programs instead of into continued prison building, which he sees as being, at best, a failed strategy tainted by racial bias. Currie, who teaches at Berkeley's Legal Studies program, backs up chapters on "Prison Myths" and his proposed alternatives with a wealth of studies and statistics. So much factual information is set forth from so many different sources, in fact, that the book seems muddled at times. Currie wants to use four cost-effective social programs he is certain will help achieve a sustainable, long-term lowering of crime rates. They include preventing child neglect and abuse; early intervening for at-risk youth; keeping vulnerable adolescents in school job-training programs; and investing time and money in adolescents who are already committing crimes. Although Currie makes a convincing case for his priorities, his book reads more like an academic treatise than an attempt to make his recommended social programs?which look to be a tough sell in these conservative times?anecdotally accessible. Rights (except first serial, British, electronic): Brockman Inc. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Currie (Univ. of California at Berkeley; Confronting Crime, 1987) explains that, "despite a recent dip in the crime rate, we remain far and away the most violent industrial society on earth" with "the largest prison system in the world." While showing "how we came to be in this state," Currie refutes the increasingly common answer to violent crime of incarcerating more offenders for longer terms and at younger ages. Instead, he advocates using our growing knowledge of crime prevention and funding the best programs for children, youth, and families. Further, he argues, we must alleviate extreme poverty and commit to reintegrating offenders into society. Although he strongly states his views, this is a careful review of research and a highly intelligent and balanced discussion. For a contrasting opinion see William J. Bennett and others' Body Count: Moral Poverty...and How To Win America's War Against Crime (LJ 10/15/96). Highly recommended for academic and public libraries, and for every politician and interested citizen.?Mary Jane Brustman, SUNY at Albany Libs.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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He does a good job detailing the reasons why his argument is valid.
Erin Wessling
Anyone who reads Elliott Curries book will find that these policies do not have a leg to stand on intellectually.
Mark Wylie
What struck me most about this book is the number or programs that have worked at reducing crime.
Jeffrey Leeper

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mark Wylie on December 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Elliott Currie doesn't seem to understand that you aren't supposed to approach the issue of crime by actually thinking about it and looking at the evidence. These days crime policy is increasingly monotone--a one-note cry of "get tough." When crime fails to vanish like the "get tough" proponents claim it will, the cry simply becomes "get tougher." So we get the death penalty for more and more crimes, "three-strikes" laws to give life sentences for all sorts of offenses, huge numbers of people imprisoned solely for posession of drugs, and states like California spending more on their prison system than on their impoverished colleges and universities.
Anyone who reads Elliott Curries book will find that these policies do not have a leg to stand on intellectually. Currie begins by reviewing what he calls our "prison experiment." For some 30 years we have taken the "get tough" approach, over which time we have increased the prison population by a factor of about six. Over this time, the level of crime has changed little, as Currie amply demonstrates.
Currie then goes on to demolish what he calls "prison myths," a whole set of factoids about crime and the justice system that are put out by right-wing ideologues like John DiIulio, Charles Murray and Morgan Reynolds, and spread by pundits and politicians like William Bennett, Phil Gramm, and Newt Gingrich. To give one example, Currie shows how Reynolds concocts his claim that robbers serve an average prison sentence of 23 days (the actual figure is over 4 years). What Reynolds does is divide the time served by convicted robbers by the total number of roberies in a year.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Pumpkin King on May 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
Crime, like any other social issue, is a topic people have very strong opinions on. But also like any other social issue, most people don't have much basis for their opinions other than beliefs and values steeped in misunderstanding. Elliott Currie writes with the view that we must redefine our view of the criminal justice system, their purpose, and how our nation struggles with violence. The design of it all, he argues, is out of whack. Locking large numbers of people into cells and then releasing them without having addressed the underlying reasons why they got there in the first place is no solution. Currie brings in much statistical data, which can make the first two chapters slow, but it is necessary. You can't take social "science" seriously without such data. He ends on a more philosophical note, but in between, he creates a well structured critique of America's crime situation.
First, he wonders about prisons. Are we soft on crime? Does prison work? And do prisons pay back in prevented crimes what they cost? Then he suggests that there are alternatives to incarceration alone, and discusses methods of prevention. He also discusses crime as a social phenomenon, and economic factors that create favorable settings for crime. And finally, he suggests that our view of the justice system itself must be revised, that decreasing violence should be a priority above punishment.
Having sat in on Elliott Currie's "Crime and Criminal Justice" class at UC Berkeley, I found myself wanting a little more from the book. His class was more extensive and covered other issues like gun control, the death penalty, how to get and interpret data on crime, etc. But this is not a textbook on crime.
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Format: Paperback
"Crime and Punishment in America" provides excellent examples of how common sense and rational science have been sacrificed in criminal justice policymaking in favor of politically favorable actions. Currie explores why "lock 'em up and throw away the key", while a very politically fashionable approach to crime, will only serve to exacerbate the crime crisis. Currie also provides excellent answers to conservative critics like James Q. Wilson and John J. DiIulio who seem to be grossly misinterpreting the data we have about crime.
As a former criminal justice student of Currie's myself, I must say that, along with his lectures at Berkeley, his detailed analysis in this book went a long way in changing my personal views about the crime problem in America.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By carolyn on August 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book was required reading a sociology class I took and I would recommend it to anyone. The book is easy to read, easy to understand, interesting, and relevent to any member of society. Currie builds a strong thesis as to why our justice system does us little justice, and he offers some valuable suggestions as to how the system could do us more justice. I would especially recomend this book to all voters.
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By H. Snider on January 20, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Elliot Currie's book on the problem of crime in America should be a must read by all politicians, judges, police, etc plus the general voting public. In an organized, objective, research based, authoritative and sensitive manner Dr. Currie has produced a readable book that captures the problem of American crime and it's links to our society. Read it and weep.
Herndon Snider
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