Book Review: Criminal justice at the crossroads: Transforming crime and punishment

Published date01 December 2020
AuthorKatie Omans,Cody Stoddard
Date01 December 2020
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Review
Book Review
Kelly, W. R. (2015).
Criminal justice at the crossroads: Transforming crime and punishment. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
X, 405 pp. $35.00 (paperback), ISBN 978-0-231-17137-3.
Reviewed by: Cody Stoddard and Katie Omans, Department of Law and Justice, Central Washington University,
Ellensburg, Washington, USA
DOI: 10.1177/0734016818797169
For nearly half a century, the crime control model has served as our criminal justice system’s most
predominant strategy to reduce crime. Yet, in spite of these efforts, the United States finds itself with
even more criminal offenders in our state and federal prisons than it did at this model’s debut in the
mid-1960s. Asidefrom bulging prisons and significant costs to taxpayers, crime control policies have
little to show in the way of effectiveness in reducing crime. In Criminal Justice at the Crossroads:
Transforming Cr ime and Punishment, William Kelly incorporates a wide breadth of research to craft a
compelling argument that crime controlhas largely been a failure in America. While constructing this
argument and documenting the fallacies of the crime control approach, Kelly continually points out
alternativeroads that American crime policy can—andKelly argues should—take to forge a new path
for the future. In this way, the book serves as a measure of where we have been, what has been
problematic, and where we should go with crime policy in the United States.
Kelly’s work spans eight chapters and starts by illustrating the history of crime control in the
United States. This review begins by documenting the massive increase in the national correctional
population and then connects that trend with the political and social changes within the United States
political landscape. Kelly traces the political development of the crime control approach by starting
with Goldwater’s campaign in 1964, which placed crime and punishment front and center in the
political arena to the current policies embraced by the Obama administration. While Kelly states that
the tough on crime movement may have started with the intent to bring about significant reductions
in crime, the data indicate it has fallen well short of this goal. Federal involvement, no matter how
well intended, did little to reduce crime on a national scale and has brought about significant
unintended consequences related to crime control policy. Chapter 2 reviews the mechanisms that
underpin crime control: deterrence and incapacitation. Kelly utilizes the scientific evidence to
describe how both general and specific deterrence, as practiced in crime control policies, fail to
address the underlying crime problem and how the incapacitation method implemented by manda-
tory minimums functions to increase correctional populations.
Chapter 3 is constructed to be a direct alternative to the crime control pathway. Kelly argues that
crime reduction must involve methods targeting behavioral change if it is to be effective. He argues
that decreases in crime will result when policy embraces scientifically supported practices targeted
at behavior change. In order to bridge the gap between what we know and how we use it, we must
turn to the principles of effective correctional intervention and evidence-based practices. This is a
process that must start by assessing the risk and needs of the individual. Effective assessment also
requires getting judges, prosecutors, and correctional officers the knowledge they need to ask the
Criminal Justice Review
2020, Vol. 45(4) 504-505
ª2018 Georgia State University
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