Harsh Justice: Criminal Punishment and the Widening Divide between America and Europe
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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Whitman (law, Yale) decries the increasingly cruel, inhumane, and degrading forms of criminal punishment growing in popularity and use in our society. He chronicles how this development began with ... Read full review
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American law American prisons American punishment amnesties ancien régime Beccaria beheading contemporary continental Europe continued convicts Court Crime criminal justice criminal law criminal punishment Criminelle culture death penalty debtors degradation dignity discussion Droit Pénal Durkheim egalitarianism eighteenth century Eighth Amendment England English example Festungshaft flogging forced labor formal equality forms fortress confinement France France and Germany French prisons German grace Gustav Radbruch harshness high-status persons honor human Ibid important imprisonment individualization infamy inflicted inmates investigative custody ishment jurists kind Law Review Lebach lettre de cachet low-status punishments ment mercy mildness mutilation Nazi Nevertheless nineteenth century norms offenders pardoning power Paris particular peine Penal penitentiary political prisoners Poncela prison conditions Prison-Industrial Complex probation public shaming punishment practices Radbruch relatively respect Revolution sentences shame sanctions slaves society special regime status abuse Strafgesetzbuch Strafvollzug tion Tocqueville tradition treated treatment United Vimont Weimar white-collar white-collar crime York