Breaking the Pendulum: The Long Struggle Over Criminal Justice

Oxford University Press
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The history of criminal justice in the U.S. is often described as a pendulum, swinging back and forth between strict punishment and lenient rehabilitation. While this view is common wisdom, it is wrong. In Breaking the Pendulum, Philip Goodman, Joshua Page, and Michelle Phelps systematically debunk the pendulum perspective, showing that it distorts how and why criminal justice changes. The pendulum model blinds us to the blending of penal orientations, policies, and practices, as well as the struggle between actors that shapes laws, institutions, and how we think about crime, punishment, and related issues. Through a re-analysis of more than two hundred years of penal history, starting with the rise of penitentiaries in the 19th Century and ending with ongoing efforts to roll back mass incarceration, the authors offer an alternative approach to conceptualizing penal development. Their agonistic perspective posits that struggle is the motor force of criminal justice history. Punishment expands, contracts, and morphs because of contestation between real people in real contexts, not a mechanical "swing" of the pendulum. This alternative framework is far more accurate and empowering than metaphors that ignore or downplay the importance of struggle in shaping criminal justice. This clearly written, engaging book is an invaluable resource for teachers, students, and scholars seeking to understand the past, present, and future of American criminal justice. By demonstrating the central role of struggle in generating major transformations, Breaking the Pendulum encourages combatants to keep fighting to change the system.
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About the author

Philip Goodman is Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Toronto Mississauga Joshup Page is Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota Michelle Phelps is Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Mar 20, 2017
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Pages
232
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ISBN
9780190676810
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Criminal Law / Sentencing
Law / Criminal Procedure
Social Science / Criminology
Social Science / Penology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The history of criminal justice in the U.S. is often described as a pendulum, swinging back and forth between strict punishment and lenient rehabilitation. While this view is common wisdom, it is wrong. In Breaking the Pendulum, Philip Goodman, Joshua Page, and Michelle Phelps systematically debunk the pendulum perspective, showing that it distorts how and why criminal justice changes. The pendulum model blinds us to the blending of penal orientations, policies, and practices, as well as the struggle between actors that shapes laws, institutions, and how we think about crime, punishment, and related issues. Through a re-analysis of more than two hundred years of penal history, starting with the rise of penitentiaries in the 19th Century and ending with ongoing efforts to roll back mass incarceration, the authors offer an alternative approach to conceptualizing penal development. Their agonistic perspective posits that struggle is the motor force of criminal justice history. Punishment expands, contracts, and morphs because of contestation between real people in real contexts, not a mechanical "swing" of the pendulum. This alternative framework is far more accurate and empowering than metaphors that ignore or downplay the importance of struggle in shaping criminal justice. This clearly written, engaging book is an invaluable resource for teachers, students, and scholars seeking to understand the past, present, and future of American criminal justice. By demonstrating the central role of struggle in generating major transformations, Breaking the Pendulum encourages combatants to keep fighting to change the system.
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