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Harsh Justice: Criminal Punishment and the Widening Divide Between America and Europe

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Harsh Justice: Criminal Punishment and the Widening Divide Between America and Europe Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Why is American punishment so cruel? While in continental Europe great efforts are made to guarantee that prisoners are treated humanely, in America sentences have gotten longer and rehabilitation programs have fallen by the wayside. Western Europe attempts to prepare its criminals for life after prison, whereas many American prisons today leave their inhabitants reduced and debased. In the last quarter of a century, Europe has worked to ensure that the baser human inclination toward vengeance is not reflected by state policy, yet America has shown a systemic drive toward ever increasing levels of harshness in its criminal policies. Why is America so short on mercy? In this deeply researched, comparative work, James Q. Whitman reaches back to the 17th and 18th centuries to trace how and why American and European practices came to diverge. Eschewing the usual historical imprisonment narratives, Whitman focuses instead on intriguing differences in the development of punishment in the age of Western democracy. European traditions of social hierarchy and state power, so consciously rejected by the American colonies, nevertheless supported a more merciful and dignified treatment of offenders. The hierarchical class system on the continent kept alive a tradition of less-degrading "high-status" punishments that eventually became applied across the board in Europe. The distinctly American, draconian regime, on the other hand, grows, Whitman argues, out of America's longstanding distrust of state power and its peculiar, broad-brush sense of egalitarianism. Low-status punishments were evenly meted out to all offenders, regardless of class or standing. America's unrelentingly harsh treatment of transgressors--this "equal opportunity degradation"-- is, in a very real sense, the dark side of the nation's much vaunted individualism. A sobering look at the growing rift between the United States and Europe, Harsh Justice exposes the deep cultural roots of America's degrading punishment practices.

Synopsis:

Criminal punishment in America is harsh and degrading--more so than anywhere else in the liberal west. Executions and long prison terms are commonplace in America. Countries like France and Germany, by contrast, are systematically mild. European offenders are rarely sent to prison, and when they are, they serve far shorter terms than their American counterparts. Why is America so comparatively harsh? In this novel work of comparative legal history, James Whitman argues that the answer lies in America's triumphant embrace of a non-hierarchical social system and distrust of state power which have contributed to a law of punishment that is more willing to degrade offenders.

About the Author

James Q. Whitman is Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale University. He has taught at Stanford and Harvard Law Schools and was trained as a historian at the University of Chicago before taking his law degree at Yale.

Table of Contents

Introduction

1. Degradation, Harshness, and Mercy

2. Contemporary American Harshness: Rejecting Respect for Persons

3. Continental Dignity and Mildness

4. The Continental Abolition of Degradation

5. Low Status in the Anglo-American World

Conclusion: Two Revolutions of Status

Notes

Bibliography

Index

Product Details

ISBN:
9780195182606
Author:
Whitman, James Q
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Author:
null, James Q.
Author:
Whitman, James Q.
Subject:
Philosophy
Subject:
Penology
Subject:
Criminal Law
Subject:
Germany
Subject:
Punishment
Subject:
Criminal Law - General
Subject:
Law | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Prisons
Subject:
Law | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Prisons and Punishment
Subject:
Punishment -- Philosophy.
Subject:
Punishment -- United States.
Subject:
Law | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Prisons & Punishment
Subject:
Crime-Prisons and Prisoners
Copyright:
Series Volume:
Volume IX: 1991
Publication Date:
20050431
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
14 halftones and line illus.
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
9.30x6.20x.81 in. 1.07 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Crime » General
History and Social Science » Crime » Prisons and Prisoners
History and Social Science » Crime » Punishment
History and Social Science » Law » General
History and Social Science » Military » General History
History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Foreign Policy
Religion » Comparative Religion » General

Harsh Justice: Criminal Punishment and the Widening Divide Between America and Europe Used Trade Paper
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Product details 336 pages Oxford University Press - English 9780195182606 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Criminal punishment in America is harsh and degrading--more so than anywhere else in the liberal west. Executions and long prison terms are commonplace in America. Countries like France and Germany, by contrast, are systematically mild. European offenders are rarely sent to prison, and when they are, they serve far shorter terms than their American counterparts. Why is America so comparatively harsh? In this novel work of comparative legal history, James Whitman argues that the answer lies in America's triumphant embrace of a non-hierarchical social system and distrust of state power which have contributed to a law of punishment that is more willing to degrade offenders.

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