Book Review: Out-of-Control Criminal Justice: The Systems Improvement Solution for More Safety, Justice, Accountability, and Efficiency

Published date01 July 2021
AuthorChristopher Miller,Lucy Tsado
Date01 July 2021
Subject MatterBook Review
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR, 2021, Vol. 48, No. 7, July 2021, 1018 –1024.
Article reuse guidelines:
© 2021 International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
Mears, D. P. (2017). Out-of-Control Criminal Justice: The Systems Improvement Solution for More Safety,
Justice, Accountability, and Efficiency. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 307 pp. $35.99
(paperback). ISBN 978-1-316-61404-4.
Dr. Daniel P. Mears crafted a compelling argument in his book Out-of-control crimi-
nal justice: The systems improvement solution for more safety, justice, accountabil-
ity, and efficiency (2017) for the necessity of making fundamental structural changes in
the American criminal justice system by taking a systems improvement solution
approach. Daniel Mears, the Mark Stafford Professor of Criminology at Florida State
University and a fellow of the American Society of Criminology, won the Academy of
Criminal Justice Sciences Outstanding Book Award in 2019 for this contribution to the
field of criminal justice. He has written many articles, authored a book titled American
criminal justice policy: An evaluation approach to increasing accountability and effec-
tiveness (2010), and coauthored a book titled Prisoner reentry in the era of mass incar-
ceration (2014). Mears has an extensive career in criminal justice research, making his
book a worthy contribution to the field.
Mears’s (2017) main recommendation was adopting a systems approach to improve the
criminal justice system, one that utilizes data, information, and empirical research to make
criminal justice policy changes by examining the system as a whole. Other recommenda-
tions were that hierarchical evaluation is necessary to determine needs, theory, implementa-
tion, impact, and cost-efficiency; Mears inferred that these evaluations will help provide the
foundations of a cost-efficient evidence-based system that addresses crime and justice pol-
icy. He reiterated that the systems approach, rather than a series of single policy evaluations,
is vital for success, and emphasized a need for the research and policy-making processes to
be linked. However, to ensure the effectiveness of these different types of evaluations, the
systems analysis approach is critical because it allows all different parts of the system to
work together cohesively.
In his 304-page book, Mears laid out these arguments in seven chapters. The out-of-
control criminal justice system was described in Chapter 1, outlining the four goals of the
criminal justice system as safety, justice, accountability, and efficiency. The book centered
on the importance of these goals and how they can be used to improve America’s criminal
justice system by using a holistic rather than a piecemeal approach. Mears stated that the
problem was the lack of empirical research at all levels of government, coupled with the
fact that policymakers ignore research when making criminal justice policy decisions and
997528CJBXXX10.1177/0093854821997528Criminal Justice and BehaviorBook Review

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