Crime and the Politics of Hysteria:: How the Willie Horton Story Changed American Justice

David Anderson, Author
David Anderson, Author Crown Publishers $25 (291p) ISBN 978-0-8129-2061-1
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In the 1970s, penologists began to articulate the philosophy that the purpose of incarceration is punishment, not rehabilitation. Thus the incident of a convict sentenced to life who, while on furlough in 1987, terrorized a couple and raped the woman can hardly be said to have altered the system substantially. Yet the case of Willie Horton is widely acknowledged to have helped decide the 1988 presidential election, when George Bush defeated Michael Dukakis after Republicans accused the Massachusetts governor of allowing the prison furlough program from which the convict Horton had escaped. New York Times reporter Anderson (Crimes of Justice) here probes the implications of the case, with its racist overtones (Horton was black, his victims white), for the criminal justice system. He also looks into what he terms the cynical manipulation and exploitation by politicians of Americans' fear of crime and makes recommendations for rehabilitation and enlightened crime control along with victim compensation programs. Many readers are apt to consider his proposals idealistic rather than realistic. (June)
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