Five papers from the National Institute of Justice's 1996-97 Lecture Series focus on the Federal role in crime control, a critique of national drug policy, the legitimation of criminal justice policies and practices, a strategy for breaking the cycle of violence against children, and a critique of the process by which crime control policy develops in America.
James Q. Wilson argues that the Federal Government is limited in what it can achieve in countering crime; its primary role should be in the area of research and development, including evaluation of the effectiveness of crime-control efforts and policies. He also suggests that such a research effort not be under the auspices of the U.S. Justice Department. Peter Reuter assesses current U.S. drug policy and concludes that it focuses on punishment rather than treatment and prevention, thus ignoring the bulk of empirical research on what is effective; he advocates more research and debate on alternative drug policies. In discussing the legitimation of criminal justice policies and practices, Mark Moore argues that citizens are most likely to view the criminal justice system as legitimate when it focuses on the real harms that citizens do to one another and when it responds to such offenses in a proportionate and equitable manner. Cathy Spatz Widom advocates a strategy for breaking the cycle of violence against children that includes early intervention, attention to neglected children, the individualization of remedies, unbiased monitoring of families at risk, ongoing surveillance for at-risk families, and accessible resources. Norval Morris argues that crime control policy in America is influenced by a simplistic, biased reporting of crime by the media that fosters simplistic and biased attitudes toward crime by citizens. This translates into politicians' use of simplistic, punitive legislation to counter those crimes most feared by citizens. What is missing is a rational approach for dealing with violence, the primary problem of social disorder in America. The drug and gun policies particularly need rethinking. Notes and questions and answers from the audience accompany the lectures.
Date Published: November 1, 1997