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From the preface: It is obvious that the American criminal justice system is failing in the war against crime and equally obvious that American criminal justice policies often contribute to the very problem that they seek to solve. This book is an attempt to understand this failure: its dimensions, its mechanisms, its causes, and its possible solutions. To understand the failure of the American criminal justice system to protect us, it is necessary to see that the failure is not haphazard. It has a pattern. The criminal justice system devotes most of its resources to fighting against crimes like murder and mugging, crimes characteristically committed by the poor in our society. And, although our prisons are filled with poor criminals, little dent is made in the overall volume of their crimes. Indeed, there is reason to believe that prisons serve more as training grounds for future criminality than for good citizenship.
Two distinguished social and political philosophers take opposing positions in this highly engaging work. Louis Pojman justifies the practice of execution by appealing to the principle of retribution while Jeffrey Reiman argues that although the death penalty is a just punishment for murder, we are not morally obliged to execute murderers.
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