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NCJ Number: 76391 Find in a Library
Title: Wider, Stronger, and Different Nets - The Dialectics of Criminal Justice Reform
Journal: Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency  Volume:18  Issue:1  Dated:(January 1981)  Pages:165-196
Author(s): J Austin; B Krisberg
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 32
Type: Program/Project Evaluation
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Analysis of six major criminal justice reform movements (diversion, decarceration, due process, decriminalization, deterrence, and just deserts) shows how organizational dynamics function to distort the reform's original purposes.
Abstract: The assumption that State intervention is unnecessary and even counterproductive has resulted in advocacy of administrative and legislative strategies for curtailing the State's authority, such as diversion, decarceration, decriminalization, and due process. However, contrary to their intentions, these movements actually have contributed to the expansion (widening and strengthening of the net) of State control. For example, diversion programs serve to strengthen the net and to create new nets by formalizing previously informal organizational practices and by creating practices where none had existed. Moreover, decarceration leads to relabeling (e.g., youths previously defined as status offenders are redefined as delinquent and detained). The opposite assumption, that the criminal justice system is too lenient, has led to attempts to extend and strengthen the net. However, deterrence reforms, desgined to reach this goal, fail in the absence of rational or linear criminal careers and the importance of external socioeconomic variables in crime rates (e.g., the death penalty has no effect on homicide rates). Another reform, based on the theory of just deserts, rejects both the model of rehabilitation and the belief that criminal behavior can be deterred simply by increasing the presence and power of control agencies. Instead, swift and certain punishment is valued, and due process is emphasized to eliminate discretion in sentencing. Determinate sentencing is proposed to achieve this goal and to shrink the control net, since determinate sentences would be shorter on the average. However, discretion has simply shifted to different points in the system (e.g., from parole to the decisions surrounding allocation of good-time credits). Furthermore, prisons have become overcrowded, and as a result of reduced discretionary powers the situation cannot be relieved via parole. Thus, reformers should recognize that legal, programmatic, and administrative reforms are themselves circumscribed by political and economic forces. Efforts at change must include detailed analyses of the larger political economic structure and its interconnections with social control apparatus. Footnotes and about 100 references are included.
Index Term(s): Court reform; Criminal justice program evaluation; Criminal justice system effectiveness; Cultural influences; Decriminalization; Deinstitutionalization; Deterrence; Diversion programs; Due process model; Effectiveness; Just deserts theory; Political influences; Sentencing reform
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