cover image It's All the Rage: Crime and Culture

It's All the Rage: Crime and Culture

Wendy Kaminer. Addison Wesley Publishing Company, $22 (292pp) ISBN 978-0-201-62274-4

Kaminer segues from I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional to assess with insight and irony contradictions in our criminal justice system. ``[W]e tend to alternate between judging too harshly... and not judging at all,'' she concludes, finding that ``virtue talk'' on character reform is applied mainly to issues like crime and welfare but not to other policy areas. We have trouble punishing ``guilty victims'' like Lorena Bobbitt, who in 1994 was exonerated for mutilating her abusive husband, and Kaminer wisely suggests that sympathy be left for sentencing. She finds a telling contradiction in our ``popular obsession with child abuse'' and our endorsement of the caning administered by Singapore in 1994 to an American teenager convicted of vandalism. She argues that ``victims' rights'' can overwhelm public justice. A large chunk of the book concerns the death penalty; Kaminer traces the evolution of the reasons people support the death penalty from deterrence to retribution; she scores the judicial system's acceptance of unfair prosecutions; and she suggests that, until more people have direct experience with capital trials, the system will stand. This book, however, is hardly comprehensive: Kaminer could have better explored such issues as the battered-wife defense, as well as international arguments about crime and culture. (Apr.)