Criminology & Public Policy

Publication date:

Latest documents

  • The President's Commission and Sentencing, Then and Now

    The proposals made in 1967 by the U.S. President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice on sentencing were sensible, humane, well informed, and ambitious. They were premised on an assumption that indeterminate sentencing, then ubiquitous, would long continue, and sought to remedy its weaknesses and build on its strengths. That assumption proved wrong. Within a decade, indeterminate sentencing and its rehabilitative aspirations lost credibility and legitimacy. Within two decades, American policies incorporated features such as determinate sentences, lengthy prison terms, and mandatory minimum sentence laws that the Commission explicitly repudiated. The Commission's influence is evident in successful sentencing reform initiatives of the 1970s and early 1980s, some of which survive in a few places in compromised forms. Many of the Commission's proposals to make sentencing fairer, more consistent, and less vulnerable to influence by political considerations and public emotion are as germane today as they were in 1967.

  • What Could a New Crime Commission Accomplish?

    Even though the crime rate in the United States has dropped since the U.S. President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice under President Johnson issued its report in 1967, the total number of serious crimes in the nation has increased, and public concern about the subject remains high. The 1960s Commission did not fully consider several major subjects that have emerged after it reported, including mental illness, immigration, cybercrime and other white collar crimes, indigent defense, crime victims, and evidence‐based crime policy. Many observers believe that the need to deal with these subjects in addition to those discussed by other researchers in this volume warrants an examination of crime and justice by a new commission. Congress has considered proposals for such a study for nearly a decade, but they are yet to be acted on amid ideological disputes over other criminal justice issues. If Congress fails to establish a new commission, it is still possible that one could be formed with the support of state, county, and local governments, as well as with the support of private foundations.

  • Addressing Juvenile Crime

    At‐risk and offending juveniles remain the most promising target group for crime reduction efforts. Many of the problems these youths faced in the 1960s remain or have intensified, and policies to address them have shifted. Yet, research on the causes, consequences, and best responses to juvenile crime has advanced considerably and provides important lessons for policy makers and practitioners moving forward. These include (a) help don't hurt; (b) provide better procedural protections; (c) continue to build, implement, and refine evidence‐based programming; (d) tailor services; (e) tackle community‐level problems; (f) really listen and work together; (g) build better data systems; and (h) invest resources in children and teens. Providing a retrospective on the 1967 U.S. President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice report, I briefly summarize and update the Commission's findings on factors related to juvenile delinquency, outline the Commission's policy recommendations, review the research on policy and practice changes since the report, and consider current implications for policy and practice.

  • Issue Information
  • Narcotics and Drug Abuse

    Fifty years ago, the U.S. President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice saw drugs as a modest but growing problem for the criminal justice system. The reemergence of heroin occupied the Commission's attention. Many recommendations are admirable, such as a focus on public health interventions and a concern about the appropriateness of criminal prohibitions on marijuana use. Throughout the past 50 years, the problem has both massively expanded and changed in many ways; the principal drug of abuse has shifted multiple times, as has the populations most affected by them. Policy, largely stuck on tough enforcement for 30 years, is now moving in a direction more consistent with the Commission's views. Researchers have made only modest advances in understanding what enforcement can do to reduce drug use and related problems, but society has made some progress in developing interventions that have both a sound theoretical base and the promise of avoiding the unintended negative consequences of the highly punitive system of the 1980s and 1990s. A Commission in 2018 would face a much different and larger problem that has transformed many aspects of criminal justice. Investing in more data collection and evaluation research would be among its major recommendations, as would an admission of considerable uncertainty about what to do with the latest twist in the U.S. drug problem, the addition of the much more dangerous fentanyls.

  • The Courts in a Fragmented Criminal Justice System

    The U.S. President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice under President Johnson in 1967 outlined a central role for courts in the criminal justice system. That role, however, has been somewhat diminished by the dominance of plea bargaining and the legislative enactment of mandatory minimum sentences that limit judges’ discretion. At the same time, judges have become more involved in specialized courts dealing in cases involving drugs and mental illness. A major topic of concern is the lower courts, which in many areas have changed little since the 1960s Commission. In those places, the traditional adversary process is not operating well, with many defendants pleading guilty unnecessarily in a system that may be designed primarily to collect fees. In violent crime cases, the imposition of capital punishment remains a controversial issue for states that is not likely to be resolved by a new national commission. The central court functions of sentencing and overseeing plea bargains are discussed elsewhere in this volume.

  • Race, Crime, and Criminal Justice

    Fifty years ago, the U.S. President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice under President Johnson did not frequently mention race and ethnicity in its discussion of and recommendations for the criminal justice system, but it did have a lot to say about race and crime. Through the use of arrest rates to measure racial differentials in criminal involvement, the Commission concluded that Blacks commit more crime as a consequence of Black people living in greater numbers in criminogenic “slum” conditions. To address racial differences, the Commission favored the Great Society programs of Johnson's War on Poverty. Contemporary criminologists continue to debate the racial distribution of crime, the causes of crimes, and the best policies to reduce crime and racial differentials. The Commission did not anticipate the current debate among scholars regarding how much racial disproportionality exists in the criminal justice system and its causes and consequences. The policies that led to mass incarceration have been significant drivers of continued criminal justice racial disparity. Those policies are inconsistent with the recommendation in The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society (1967), upending the pursuit of a more fair and just system.

  • Fifty Years After the 1967 Crime Commission Report

    In the 50 years since the U.S. President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice under President Johnson issued its report, feminist activism and both feminist and mainstream research have resulted in defining domestic violence (DV) as a social problem. This awareness of the seriousness and expansiveness of DV has spurred the development of unprecedented programs and policies. Although DV policing changes have been significant, so too have been the development of and changes in safehouses, no‐drop court policies, domestic violence courts, community‐coordinated responses, and batterer intervention programs. In this article, we review the nonpolice responses to DV cases and outcomes and provide recommendations. First, research and policies need to more regularly be aimed at addressing victims’ safety and their diverse needs and experiences. Second, assessments should include addressing the processing of these cases through the impact of responses by individual community and criminal legal system actors (e.g., victim advocates, police, prosecutors, and judges) to victims and offenders.

  • Progress and Prospects—The 50th Anniversary of the 1967 President's Crime Commission Report in Today's Criminal Justice Environment
  • Science and Technology and the President's Crime Commission

    The U.S. President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice added a Task Force on Science and Technology as somewhat of an afterthought because there had then been very little interaction between science and technology and the criminal justice system (CJS). The task force focused on the CJS as a whole and interactions among its parts, with an important emphasis on analysis of the operating systems and on the important potential role of information systems as the technology advanced. The potential applications of contemporary information and electronic technologies is considerable, especially for assessing risk and needs of identified offenders and for providing relevant information wherever needed. There is urgent need for scientific evaluation of many of the positive and negative aspects of the operation of the CJS and of the potential for new technologies.

Featured documents

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT