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

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Oxford University Press, Apr 14, 2005 - Social Science - 336 pages
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 when they 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 power which have contributed to a law of punishment that is more willing to degrade offenders.

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User Review  - rothwell - LibraryThing

Why is American punishment so cruel? While in continental Europe great efforts are made to guarantee that prisoners are treated humanely, in America sentences have gotten longer and rehabilitation ... Read full review

Harsh justice: criminal punishment and the widening divide between America and Europe

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Whitman (law, Yale) decries the increasingly cruel, inhumane, and degrading forms of criminal punishment growing in popularity and use in our society. He chronicles how this development began with New ... Read full review


1 Degradation Harshness and Mercy
Rejecting Respect for Persons
3 Continental Dignity and Mildness
4 The Continental Abolition of Degradation
5 Low Status in the AngloAmerican World
Two Revolutions of Status

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About the author (2005)

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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