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Copyright (c) 1997 Northwestern School of Law
Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology

BOOK REVIEW: ZIMRING, HAWKINS, AND THE MACRO PROBLEMS OF IMPRISONMENT

Winter, 1997

87 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 604

Author

KEVIN R. REITZ *

Excerpt





I. Introduction
 
Six years ago, Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins wrote an extraordinary book about America's use of imprisonment as a policy tool and as the product of complex macrosociological forces. 1 The subject matter of The Scale of Imprisonment has only gained in public significance since 1991. 2 Sadly, however, perhaps because it is a "difficult read," the book has been under-noticed by the legal, academic and policy communities. 3

This essay proceeds from two ambitions. First, it seeks to draw attention to a work that has the power to change people's ways of thinking about our legal institutions for the incarceration of criminals. Second, and on two scores, the essay ventures to add to the claims explicitly asserted in The Scale of Imprisonment. Pulling the book apart for its academic style in addition to its substantive content, I will argue that the book exemplifies a kind of interdisciplinary, empirically-aware legal scholarship that is worthy of notice for its methodology alone. As a study of legal systems, Zimring and Hawkins' work fits into a model of law scholarship recently touted by Richard Posner and Mary Ann Glendon. 4 The law professoriate, so often under fire for its (allegedly) pointless or politicized work products, 5 might draw comfort, and a few good ideas, from inspection of the academic approach of two of its most distinguished practitioners.

In addition, and on substantive policy grounds, I will suggest that the raw material of The Scale of Imprisonment can be reassembled (somewhat ...
 
 
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