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Taming the System: The Control of Discretion in Criminal Justice, 1950-1990 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0195078206
ISBN-10: 0195078209
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Editorial Reviews

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"Displays a formidable command of the relevant literature....A concise and balanced overview of a critical dimension in the operation of the criminal justice system."--Choice


"[A] comprehensive, very well-organized, and informative account..."--Contemporary Sociology


"With such titles as Popular Justice: A History of American Criminal Justice (1980) and In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (1990), Samuel Walker secured his status as a major voice in criminal justice history. Taming the System buttresses his reputation by demonstrating once again his considerable strengths: mastery of the topic, clear and effective prose, well-crafted arguments, [and] sound conclusions."--The Journal of American History


About the Author

Samuel Walker is at University of Nebraska at Omaha.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 20, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195078209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195078206
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 0.9 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Samuel Walker is Isaacson Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, where he has taught for over 30 years. He is the author of 13 books on policing, criminal justice history and policy, and civil liberties. Current research involves police accountability, focusing primarily on citizen oversight of the police and police Early Warning (EW) systems. Professor Walker currently serves on the Panel on Policing of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. Gawne on November 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Walker's text is largely an account of the history of major discretionary control measures in the latter half of the 20th century. It's historical account is useful as a resource, and contains a good amount of detail while not loosing site of a larger picture.

There are two main problems: one, while masquerading as a fair and balanced view, it is unapologetically biased, and two, he has a number of unsupported assumptions that cause him to push toward exaggerated claims regarding the control of discretion.

Walker is a major proponent of the Due Process school of thought, and he rarely lets an opportunity to assert his views pass. This would not be a problem if it was made plain what is a bias and opinion, and what is historical fact, but he mixes the two quite heavily, all while the text treats all the material as equally empirical. For those unfamiliar with contemporary criminal justice, there are two major models of thought: due process and crime control. Due process is very concerned with protecting the rights of the accused and limiting discretion of the players, while crime control favors controlling crime even at the reduction of control measures on agents of the Justice System. They tend to line up ideologically with liberalism and conservatism in the political sphere, though not always. However, just like liberlism and conservatism, both extreme views have a mixture of negative and positive aspect, and the optimum course is most often achieved by finding the 'golden mean'.

The biggest issue here is that Walker automatically assumes that discretion in the system is a negative thing, and must inherently be controlled for there to be such a thing as justice.
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Taming the System: The Control of Discretion in Criminal Justice, 1950-1990
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