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Time To Be Smart On Crime And Punishment

Publication Date: 
October 14, 2010
The Huffington Post
Sasha Abramsky

Professors Joan Petersilia and Robert Weisberg are mentioned in this story by Huffington Post that references Daedelus, the professors' essay warning against the temptation to blindly support criminal justice reform:

Two weeks ago, I attended the first Meg Whitman-Jerry Brown gubernatorial debate in California. One of the things that struck me was the time-warp quality of Whitman's discussion of crime and punishment.

Time and again, she told her audience how she would be "tough on crime," contrasting her ideas with the purportedly "liberal" record of Brown. She talked about Rose Bird - the more-than-liberal state Supreme Court justice appointed by Brown during his earlier gubernatorial incarnation in the 1970s, and subsequently recalled by disgruntled voters at the start of the "tough-on-crime" epoch. On capital punishment, Brown reluctantly conceded that, while he was personally opposed to the death penalty, his job would be to enforce state laws, including signing execution warrants. Whitman, by contrast, showed no such qualms; for her, the major issue regarding the death penalty was that it took too long to execute people these days. Despite Brown's endorsement by many law enforcement organizations, the Democratic candidate, Whitman averred, simply couldn't be trusted to do the right thing when it came to punishing criminals.


In this regards, I was particularly struck by an essay in Daedalus by Robert Weisberg and Joan Petersilia, of the Criminal Justice Center at the Stanford Law School. Beware of Pyrrhic victories, they warned reformers; beware of a rush to early release that ends up doing more harm than good.