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The Machinery of Criminal Justice

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Machinery of Criminal Justice.pdf | Language: ENGLISH

Two centuries ago, the American criminal justice was run primarily by laymen. Jury trials passed moral judgment on crimes, vindicated victims and innocent defendants, and denounced the guilty. But over the last two centuries, lawyers have taken over the process, silencing victims and defendants and, in many cases, substituting a plea-bargaining system for the voice of the jury. The public sees little of how this assembly-line justice works, and victims and defendants have largely lost their day in court. As a result, victims rarely hear defendants express remorse and apologize, and defendants rarely receive forgiveness. This lawyerized machinery has purchased efficient, speedy processing of many cases at the price of sacrificing softer values, such as reforming defendants and healing wounded victims and relationships. In other words, the U.S. legal system has bought quantity at the price of quality, without recognizing either the trade-off or the great gulf separating lawyers' and laymen's incentives, interests, values, and powers.

In The Machinery of Criminal Justice, author Stephanos Bibas surveys these developments over the last two centuries, considers what we have lost in our quest for efficient punishment, and suggests ways to include victims, defendants, and the public once again. These ideas range from requiring convicts to work or serve in the military, to moving power from prosecutors to restorative sentencing juries. Bibas argues that doing so might cost more, but it would better serve criminal procedure's interests in denouncing crime, vindicating victims, reforming wrongdoers, and healing the relationships torn by crime.

"It is rare to see, especially from the right, a critique of the modern American criminal justice system that focuses not just on specific concerns, but on the foundation of the system itself...It is therefore noteworthy when a conservative voice, inspired by conservative principles, comprehensively analyzes the root problems of our criminal justice system. ...Bibas brings to bear a distinctly premodern perspective, which he has distilled in The Machinery of Criminal Justice. Published two years before his appointment to the federal appeals court, the book deploys social-scientific, historical, and personal insight to ask and answer a question: why and how have the beneficiaries of justice -the community- been shut out of the process of justice?" -- Charles Fain Lehman, The University Bookman Stephanos Bibas is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he specializes in criminal procedure. As director of Penn's Supreme Court Clinic, he also litigates a wide array of cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. After graduating from Yale Law School and clerking at the Supreme Court, he worked as a federal prosecutor in New York City, where he prosecuted a wide array of criminal cases. He successfully investigated, prosecuted, and convicted the world's leading expert in Tiffany stained glass for hiring a grave robber to loot priceless Tiffany windows from tombs in cemeteries, winning an FBI award for outstanding performance. He has published widely on plea bargaining, sentencing, and how criminal procedure could better serve the substantive moral goals of the criminal law.

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Book details

  • PDF | 320 pages
  • Oxford University Press; 1 edition (February 28, 2012)
  • English
  • 9
  • Law

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Review Text

  • By JDS on April 14, 2016

    The book covers a wide variety of criminal justice issues and follows up with suggested solutions. The author indicates that he wrote the book in the simplest way he could in order for both "insiders" and "outsiders" of the system to understand. Unfortunately, without previous criminal law and procedure knowledge, it may be confusing. The final chapter, containing his recommendations is the highlight of the book. I would recommend that lawyers, police officers, judges, and motivated law students read this.

  • By Dennis Little on November 17, 2014

    It was a personal experience that drove me to an obsessive interest in our legal system. The system that is described by Bibas is so true to life, it brought tears to my eyes that my view of this system was no naive, as with most Americans. I have become an advocate for overhauling our system that is so broken and filled with corruption. The blueprint that Bibas lays out in this work is a good starting point for our lawmakers to use as we begin a revolution in getting back to the spirit of justice that was envisioned by our forefathers. Equality for ALL persons, and a system that is run by and for the people.

  • By Jerry on May 10, 2016

    Having first hand experienced our so called "criminal justice system" I found that professor Bibas thoughtful recounting of the history of criminal justice over the past 200 plus years and his recommendations for reform were both practical and insightful. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in seeing the much needed change in our criminal justice system implemented.

  • By darryl brown on April 19, 2013

    Bibas is among the very best American criminal justice scholars writing today, and this book sums up and extends much of his critical and insightful work on the transformation of the American criminal process into a assembly line system that puts a premium on low-cost convictions at a price not only to defendants (and to the accuracy of both convictions and sentences) but also to victims and, ultimately, he argues, democracy. One hears in this book Bibas' distinctive voice and strongest arguments that the criminal process has gone wrong in large part because because it has been taken over by professionals--judges, prosecutors and other lawyers--who have displaced a more democratic possibility for the system with meaningful roles for lay people as witnesses, victims and jurors. The book is great combination of a passionately argued point of view and in depth scholarly knowledge about the law, practice and consequences of U.S. criminal justice.

  • By Joshua on November 14, 2014

    This is a brilliant and important contribution to our understanding of criminal justice. Bibas maps the transformation of criminal law from a community-based, justice-oriented enterprise to one dominated by professionals and devoted to efficiency. He also outlines the road back.


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