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When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment Paperback – August 1, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


One of Economist's Best Books for 2009

"One way to make apprehension and punishment more likely is to spend substantially more money on law enforcement. In a time of chronic budget shortfalls, however, that won't happen. But Mr. Kleiman suggests that smarter enforcement strategies can make existing budgets go further. The important step, he says, is to view enforcement as a dynamic game in which strategically chosen deterrence policies become self-reinforcing. . . . It is an ingenious idea that borrows from game theory and the economics of signaling behavior. . . . Revolutionary."--Robert H. Frank, New York Times

"Mass incarceration was a successful public-policy tourniquet. But now that we've stopped the bleeding, it can't be a permanent solution. . . . [I]t requires a more sophisticated crime-fighting approach--an emphasis, for instance, on making sentences swifter and more certain, even as we make them shorter; a system of performance metrics for prisons and their administrators; a more stringent approach to probation and parole. (When Brute Force Fails, by the U.C.L.A. law professor Mark Kleiman, is the best handbook for would-be reformers.)"--Ross Douthat, New York Times

"'Big cases make bad laws' is a criminological axiom, and one with which Mark A. R. Kleiman agrees, in When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment. Kleiman blames big cases and bad laws for another distinctive feature of American life: 2.3 million people are currently behind bars in the United States. . . . At what point, Kleiman wonders, will incarceration be a greater social ill than crime? He proposes, for lesser offenders, punishments that are swift and certain but not necessarily severe: a night in jail, instead of a warning, for missing a meeting with a parole officer, say, and ten nights the next time."--Jill Lepore, New Yorker

"From Kennedy and Kleiman to Alm and Meares, the judges and scholars developing new deterrence strategies are changing the way we think about parole, probation, gang violence and drug markets."--Jeffrey Rosen, New York Times Magazine

"In his recent book, When Brute Force Fails, UCLA's Kleiman argues that new strategies for targeting repeat offenders--including reforms to make probation an effective sanction rather than a feckless joke--could cut crime and reduce prison populations simultaneously. Safer communities, in turn, might produce more hopeful and well-disciplined kids."--David Von Drehle, TIME Magazine

"Mark Kleiman's new book, When Brute Force Fails, draws on the bedrock of economic logic--rational actors using incentives to make optimal decisions--to arrive at a sweeping overhaul of how we deter, punish and sentence. . . . Kleiman says we can have more effective deterrence by becoming more efficient in the use of resources to control crime. . . . Kleiman's theory of 'dynamic concentration' is the best example of economic logic used cautiously and innovatively to address a social problem. . . . If you want a no-nonsense guide to using incentives to build a better mousetrap, this is the book for you."--Sudhir Venkatesh, Forbes

"Absolutely buy this book and dedicate some time to it. . . . This is the most important social science book I've read in many years."--Reihan Salam, Bloggingheads.tv

"In . . . When Brute Force Fails, Kleiman argues that such capricious enforcement undermines efforts to reduce crime, and moreover that tough penalties--such as the long sentences that have contributed to clogged prisons--don't do much to help, despite their high cost. The alternative, Kleiman suggests, is a paradigm called 'swift and certain' justice, first proposed by Cesare Beccaria in the 18th century: immediate, automatic penalties--though not necessarily severe ones--doled out by credible, identifiable figures. . . . [I]t seems likely that the invasive surveillance model, combining tracking technology and the Kleiman/Alm paradigm of 'swift and certain' justice, could offer an alternative to much of the waste--in human as well as economic terms--of our current, dysfunctional system."--Graeme Wood, Atlantic

"Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California (Los Angeles), contend[s] that for violent as well as nonviolent offenders, long prison terms--which most potential criminals don't expect to incur--do less to deter crime than would swifter and surer imposition of less onerous penalties. Even probation, Kleiman writes, can be a real deterrent if accompanied by tough conditions and oversight. In his recent book, When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment, Kleiman argues that the correct reforms would lead to 'half as much crime and half as many people behind bars 10 years from now.'"--Stuart Taylor Jr., National Journal

"Kleiman's recommendations appear to work. If they do, every community should be considering how to apply them. The current ways, the tough-sounding sentences, the random zero-tolerance, the throw 'em-in-jail-and-throw-away-the-key approach, feels right. But maybe it's wrong."--Royal Oak Daily Tribune

"[Kleiman] brings to his analysis a formidable array of statistics and case studies, which, fortunately for the reader, he uses to illuminate rather than overpower. . . . Having dissected the problem as he sees it, Kleiman offers in his final chapter a series of tips he believes will reduce both crime and the cost of correction and punishment. It is a trenchantly-stated starting point for reformers and fiscal conservatives alike."--Edward Morris, ForeWord Magazine

"Offenders are not 'rational actors' in the normal sense, explains UCLA professor Mark A.R. Kleiman in his book, When Brute Force Fails. Their cost-benefit calculations are skewed toward the immediate future, which means a delayed punishment won't feel tied to the offense. . . . Even [James Q.] Wilson, the godfather of 'tough on crime,' has endorsed Kleiman's book. 'This is very good. It's not quite as good as Einstein predicting the shift of light behind Mars . . . but it's a step in the right direction,' Wilson said while appearing alongside Kleiman on a panel at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in October."--Adam Serwer, American Prospect

"One of the most admired liberal policy books of the season, Mark Kleiman's When Brute Force Fails, argues for reconsidering current law enforcement policy."--David Frum, The Week

From the Back Cover

"This is very good. It's not quite as good as Einstein predicting light bending around the sun, . . . but it's a step in the right direction."--James Q. Wilson

"Absolutely buy this book. Dedicate some time to it. . . . This is the most important social science book I've read in many years."--Reihan Salam, New America Foundation

"For two decades, Mark Kleiman has tried to rescue community corrections from its own incompetence as well as from its critics. In When Brute Force Fails he extends his reach to develop a more sensible system of criminal justice. The book is imaginative, thorough, and readable. It will make a difference in public policy."--Peter Reuter, University of Maryland

"Mark Kleiman draws on a mixture of common sense, rationality, analysis, and individual case studies to develop clear policy recommendations about how to reduce crime while cutting costs. Policymakers, constrained by increasingly tight budgets, would be well advised to give serious consideration to his approaches and proposals."--Alfred Blumstein, Carnegie Mellon University

"Ideas that make a real difference don't come along often. Mark Kleiman's got a big one here."--Robert H. Frank, Cornell University

"Crime is costly. Punishment is costly. Mark Kleiman shows how, by being clever rather than vindictive, we can have much less of both than anyone thought possible. This book is the order of battle for a historic victory of intelligence over evil."--Michael O'Hare, University of California, Berkeley

"This is a terrific book on crime control, one that will inform experts and laypeople alike. Kleiman speaks about crime control with clarity and informed common sense."--Jim Leitzel, University of Chicago

"This book is destined to be a classic. There have been few new ideas for how to implement deterrence and this book is a fresh start at tackling the problem. It reads beautifully and is one of the most innovative and original contributions to the crime-control debate in a decade or more."--Robert J. MacCoun, University of California, Berkeley


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (August 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691148643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691148649
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #591,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark A. R. Kleiman

Mark A.R. Kleiman is Professor of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. His teaching and research cover drug policy, crime control policy, and methods of policy analysis. His books include *Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control* and *Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results*, and *When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment* (one of The Economist's "Books of the Year" for 2009).

Most recently, he has joined Jonathan Caulkins, Angela, Hawken, and Beau Kilmer in writing two books in Oxford's "What Everyone Needs to Know" series, one on *Drug Policy* and, most recently, one on *Marijuana Legalization*. He edits the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis and blogs at The Reality-Based Community (http://www.samefacts.com). His essay in Foreign Affairs, "Surgical Strikes in the Drug Wars: Smarter Strategies for Both Sides of the Border," presents an innovative approach to reducing drug-trafficking violence.

Mr. Kleiman studied political science, philosophy, and economics at Haverford College and received his Master of Public Policy degree and his Ph.D. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where he also taught before coming to UCLA. His governmental experience includes stints on Capitol Hill (working for Les Aspin), in Boston City Hall, and at the Justice Department. His firm, BOTEC Analysis Corporation, advises local, state, and national governments on drug policy and crime control.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Mark Kleiman has had an interesting career which included public service, academia and stints in the private sector. He notes at his acknowledgements that, "I realize that I have been preparing to write this book for most of a lifetime..." Kleiman then weighs in on controversies as varied as gun control to drug policy. In an eleven chapters he weaves an interesting argument that produces a tapestry that includes both broad generalizations as well as a healthy number of extremely specific recommendations for action across society as a whole.

As one would expect, crime control - a perennial popular public policy issue - has some well entrenched positions that are assumed by advocates on reflex. Kleiman argues at the introduction that:

"The first step in getting away from brute force is to want to get away from brute force: to care more about reducing crime than about punishing criminals, and to be willing to choose safety over vengeance when the two are in tension."

When grappling with crime control, he advocates additional considerations be factored into a real solution -concentration of resources and direct communication of deterrent threats to likely offenders.

Simply this book is guaranteed to upset almost every reader's comfort level at some point, to prove this I refer you to his sixteen page final chapter innocuously labeled as "An Agenda for Crime Control". Kleiman ultimately concludes that "Liberals will have to swallow the idea that improved coercion is as necessary as improved conditions. Conservatives will have to swallow the ideas that punishment is a cost and not a benefit and that the measure of the efficacy of a threat is how often it does not need to be carried out, plus the fact that providing services to actual and potential offenders can in some circumstances control crime more effectively and more cost-effectively than law enforcement."

This book is a worthwhile investment of your time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Professor Kleiman employs psychology, economics, game theory, and real-world examples to explain why harsher punishments are often less effective at controlling the behavior of criminals than targeted, swift and certain punishments. He persuasively argues that we can significantly reduce crime and punishment (particularly punishment of the prison incarceration variety) by focusing enforcement resources to make the threat of getting caught and going to jail a real threat thereby reducing the costs on society of crime, punishment, and the steps taken by law-abiding citizens to protect themselves from crime. A thoroughly enlightening read, When Brute Force Fails forced me to think about the costs to society crime causes in a way I had never considered before (the price you pay for gas at the pump would likely be less if you didn't have to drive to your job from your home in the suburbs every day. A home you likely own because it is too dangerous to live in the city and the crumbling infrastructure is no place you want to raise your children.) A must read for policy makers and concerned citizens alike.
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Format: Hardcover
Kleiman is a brilliant analyst, with seemingly no pre-conceived notions. Both liberals and conservatives will find lots to agree with and lots to challenge their current thinking. Much of the book is very interesting, but the one problem is that many of the policy discussions are just too detailed for the general reader.

More incarceration has helped bring the crime rate down, but at a great cost to society as well as the prisoners and their families. Sentencing must attempt to identify those offenders with the most potential for future crime, and give them longer sentences. To this end, even juvenile criminal history should be considered in sentencing, whereas currently it is not. If parole were more effective, more prisoners could be released without driving up the crime rate too much (or maybe not at all). While simply increasing parole supervision has had poor results, the H.O.P.E. pilot implementation in Hawaii shows smarter parole management can work: consequences for parole violations need not necessarily be severe, and should not be severe for minor violations, but they must be certain, and immediate; e.g. Honolulu tested for drug violations on the spot (rather than sending out the sample). Ankle bracelets providing location, and restrictions on movement, could be applied when there is some parole violation. Drug programs tend not to be cost effective, and should therefore be voluntary, which would increase the benefits per dollar spent. Many addicts cure themselves of clinical dependency (does this include participation in free programs like N.A. and A.A., Kleiman does not make this clear).

The effectiveness of incarceration as a deterrent depends less on the severity than it does on the certainty, and immediacy.
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Format: Hardcover
"When Brute Force Fails" is interesting, relevant, and informative on many levels. Mark Kleiman has a unique gift to explain the complex historical, economic and sociological aspects of crime research in a straightforward and concise manner. He first makes a strong case that crime is an extremely important and costly problem in America today. Drawing on decades of academic and policy experience he then manages to summarize the history and current state of the field in a fluent and succinct style. He concludes by constructing a convincing argument for his idea of concentrating law enforcement mechanisms in high crime areas as the most efficient means for decreasing the huge burden of crime on American society. This argument is intertwined throughout with relevant data, case studies, and an eye to the practical aspects of crime control that are of interest to the academic, policy analyst, and lay person alike.
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