America’s criminal codes are so voluminous that they now bewilder not only the average citizen but also the average lawyer. Our courthouses are so clogged that there is no longer adequate time for trials. And our penitentiaries are overflowing with prisoners. In fact, America now has the highest per capita prison population in the world. This situation has many people wondering whether the American criminal justice system has become dysfunctional.
A generation ago Harvard Law Professor Henry Hart Jr. published his classic article, “The Aims of the Criminal Law,” which set forth certain fundamental principles concerning criminal justice. In this book, leading scholars, lawyers, and judges critically examine Hart’s ideas, current legal trends, and whether the “first principles” of American criminal law are falling by the wayside.
The issues considered include:
- The proper role of the criminal sanction in a free society.
- Whether we can still condemn “criminals” when we have all (probably) violated a federal criminal law.
- Whether the criminal law can retain its moral role of condemnation when policymakers remove the requirement that a person must knowingly commit a crime to be convicted.
- Whether businesses can thrive in a world where routine accounting and data storage practices can arbitrarily be deemed felonies by federal prosecutors.
- Whether the government should compensate those who have been wrongfully prosecuted and incarcerated.
Policymakers, academics, and citizens alike will enjoy this lively discussion on the nature of crime and punishment, and how the choices we make in formulating criminal laws can impact liberty, security, and justice.
Leading experts reexamine the classic article “The Aims of the Criminal Law” by Henry M. Hart
ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ
JAMES B. JACOBS
JUDGE ALEX KOZINSKI
JUSTICE STEPHEN J. MARKMAN
JUDGE RICHARD A. POSNER
JUSTICE RICHARD B. SANDERS
HARVEY A. SILVERGLATE
JAMES Q. WILSON