Book Review: Rethinking Race, Crime, and Punishment

Despite the decline in violent and property crime rates since the mid 1990s, Americans continue to believe that the crime problem is getting worse and that tougher sentences are needed. This false perception fuels the dysfunctional nature of our criminal justice system. In Race, Crime, and Punishment: Breaking the Connection in America (“Race, Crime, and Punishment ”), Keith Lawrence, project manager of The Aspen Institute’s Roundtable on Community Change, along with nine other criminal justice reformers, social scientists, legal scholars, and human rights advocates, approach the United States criminal justice system’s inherent flaws from a new perspective. The volume is the end product of conversations that took place between the authors and participants at a June 2007 meeting to frame the “Rethinking Crime and Punishment for the Twenty-First Century Project.” The book’s organization focuses on two themes throughout its thirteen chapters, including: (1) changing the public perception of race, crime, and punishment, and (2) alternative visions of justice, with policy recommendations. Each essay contribution is supplemented by a summary of additional comments made by the author of each essay. Though a full account of each essay is beyond the scope of this review, the major points of Race, Crime, and Punishment are discussed below.