1st Edition

Smart on Crime The Struggle to Build a Better American Penal System

By Garrick L. Percival Copyright 2016
    263 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    263 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The most punitive era in American history reached its apex in the 1990s, but the trend has reversed in recent years. Smart on Crime: The Struggle to Build a Better American Penal System examines the factors causing this dramatic turnaround. It relates and echoes the increasing need and desire on the part of actors in the American government system to construct a penal system that is more rational and humane.

    Author Garrick L. Percival points out that the prison boom did not naturally emerge as a governmental response to increasing crime rates. Instead, political forces actively built and shaped the growth of a more aggressive and populated penal system. He is optimistic that the shifting political forces surrounding crime and punishment can now reform the system, explaining how current political actors can craft more constructive and just policies and programs. The book shows how rationality and humanitarianism lead to a penal system that imprisons fewer people, does less harm to the lives of individual offenders and those close to them, and is less expensive to maintain.

    The book presents empirical data to concretely demonstrate what is working and what is not in today’s penal system. It closely examines policies and practices in Texas, Ohio, and California as comparative illustrations on what progress has been made or needs to be made in penal systems across the United States. The book includes a comprehensive discussion of highlighted issues, and relates more than two dozen interviews with pivotal political actors who clarify why there is a major shift underway in the American penal system. Their insights reveal paths that can be taken to improve the current penal system.



    Smart on Crime Politics
    Crime Politics in the American Political System
    Coalition Politics and Reform in the Criminal Justice Subsystem
    Rise of the Smart on Crime Coalition
    Explaining the Emergence of the Smart on Crime Coalition
    Policy Learning
    Bringing Policy Back into the Picture
    When Is Reform Really Reform?

    Collapse of the Rehabilitative Model and Rise of the Tough on Crime Coalition
    Calm before the Storm
    The Storm: The Rehabilitative Model Gets Blown Away
    Politicalization of Rehabilitation Research
    Sagging Support for Rehabilitation on the Left
    Building an Institutional Legacy
    Tough on Crime Coalition

    Crisis and Opportunity in the American Penal System
    To the Victors Go the Spoils
    Problems on the Ground: Consequences of the Tough on Crime Regime
    The Penal System and Inequality
    Diminishing Marginal Returns of Mass Incarceration
    Conditions Facilitating the Search for Alternatives and Policy Learning
    Economic Crisis
    The Contemporary Prison System Is a Different Beast
    Examining Changes in Public Attitudes on Crime and Punishment
    Fear of Crime
    Saliency of Crime

    Prisoner Reentry and the Politics of the Second Chance Act
    Pressure from the Bottom Up
    Conceptualizing Prisoner Reentry
    Ohio Plan
    Developments in Corrections Policy Research
    Conservatives Begin the Push for Prisoner Reentry
    Introduction of the SCA
    Prison Fellowship Ministries
    Fight to Protect Inmates’ Religious Freedom
    Framing the Meaning of the SCA
    Correctional Associations
    Second Chance Advocacy in the Senate
    Political Progress in the House
    Roadblocks in the Senate
    Closing the Deal

    Fair Sentencing Act of 2010
    Policy Context
    Challenging the Unique Dangers of Crack Cocaine
    Proposals for Change
    Legal Challenges to the Federal Sentencing Process
    New Proposals for Crack Sentencing Reform
    Mobilizing Support for Crack Sentencing Reform

    Introduction to the Problem Environment
    Bringing an Engineer’s Perspective to the Texas Penal System
    Emergence of New Organized Groups
    Justice Reinvestment
    Broad-Based Smart on Crime Coalition
    Texas Penal System and the Shifting Dimensions of Political Debate

    Diffusion of Smart on Crime Policy Ideas
    Ohio Seeks Technical Assistance
    Policy Learning among Conservatives in Ohio

    Shifting Political Environment
    Return of the Structural Injunction
    Prison Realignment in California

    Evaluating the Smart on Crime Movement
    De-Incarceration and Crime
    Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?




    Garrick Percival is an assistant professor of political science and director of the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at San José State University. His work focuses on American politics, primarily the nexus between crime policy, racial politics, and inequality at the state and local levels of government. His work has appeared in State Politics and Policy Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, Political Research Quarterly, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, and Policy Studies Journal, among other outlets. He teaches courses at San José State University in state and local government, public policy, and American politics. He earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees from San Diego State University and his Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Riverside.

    "Percival (San José State Univ.) takes readers on a journey informed by a political science approach to understand how the US has gone from the wars on crime and drugs that led to mass incarceration to what is now termed a 'smart on crime' approach aimed at evidence-based policies and decarceration. Percival rejects as too simplistic the idea that economics has driven this new approach to criminal justice in favor of a more nuanced explanation that examines the political coalitions that have emerged because of a convergence of a number of driving factors. He largely credits conservative politicians and their allies with guiding the 'smart on crime' movement. His method is to conduct a policy history of past 'tough on crime' policies, a current legislative history of the Second Chance Act and the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, and an assessment of policies in three states—Ohio, Texas, and California—to support his contention that conservatives have played a pivotal role in advancing policies that focus on evidence-based rehabilitation policies and fiscal restraint. Summing up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, and research collections."
    —S. E. Blankenship, Lake Erie College, Painesville, Ohio, USA, for CHOICE, March 2016