A Rage to Punish: The Unintended Consequences of Mandatory Sentencing

Lois G. Forer, Author W. W. Norton & Company $23 (204p) ISBN 978-0-393-03641-1
Like many people involved in the criminal justice system, former Philadelphia judge Forer ( Criminals and Victims ) believes the recent rush to mandatory sentencing eliminates judicial discretion and claims it disserves society. In 1988, she left the bench when ordered to resentence a young black, who had served a six-month term and repaid a $50 robbery, to a mandatory five years. Mixing anecdote and analysis, she surveys the history of criminal punishment and criticizes recent political leaders for the ``counter reformation'' in response to Warren Court liberalism. We unnecessarily conflate sin and punishment, Forer argues, and points to her own experience to show that rehabilitation has never been fully pursued. Prisons, she argues, should be used not to punish criminals but to protect the public from dangerous people; alternative sentences like reparations and restitution must be pursued for others. Forer also reprises arguments that the death penalty should be abolished. Her advice for judges on sentencing is useful, but she hardly addresses the cultural forces that have kept our policies from changing. Forer's generally sensible message is a welcome addition to the often demagogic debates about crime and punishment. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
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