Harsh Justice: Criminal Punishment and the Widening Divide between America and Europe

Paperback | April 15, 2005

byJames Q. Whitman

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Criminal punishment in America is harsh and degrading--more so than anywhere else in the liberal west. Executions and long prison terms are commonplace in America. Countries like France and Germany, by contrast, are systematically mild. European offenders are rarely sent to prison, and whenthey are, they serve far shorter terms than their American counterparts. Why is America so comparatively harsh? In this novel work of comparative legal history, James Whitman argues that the answer lies in America's triumphant embrace of a non-hierarchical social system and distrust of state powerwhich have contributed to a law of punishment that is more willing to degrade offenders.

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Criminal punishment in America is harsh and degrading--more so than anywhere else in the liberal west. Executions and long prison terms are commonplace in America. Countries like France and Germany, by contrast, are systematically mild. European offenders are rarely sent to prison, and whenthey are, they serve far shorter terms than...

James Q. Whitman is Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale University. He has taught at Stanford and Harvard Law Schools and was trained as a historian at the University of Chicago before taking his law degree at Yale.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 6.1 × 9.09 × 1.1 inPublished:April 15, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019518260X

ISBN - 13:9780195182606

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Degradation, Harshness, and Mercy2. Contemporary American Harshness: Rejecting Respect for Persons3. Continental Dignity and Mildness4. The Continental Abolition of Degradation5. Low Status in the Anglo-American WorldConclusion: Two Revolutions of StatusNotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"In this book James Whitman asks and answers questions in realms where others fear to tread. He confronts the brutal fact that we punish more harshly in the United States than do Europeans and forces us to think about the questions of social structure that lie behind this practice. He developsa thesis about the current impact of Nazi jurisprudence that is sure to trigger arguments from more conventional thinkers. This is a profound book, impeccably researched and documented, one that will change the way we think about criminal punishment and increase our appreciation of comparative legalstudies."--George Fletcher, Columbia Law School