The Community Justice Ideal


Todd R Clear; David Karp

First Edition • August 1, 1999 • 208 pages


Print ISBN: 9780813367668 • $43.00 USD$49.50 CAN

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Over the past quarter-century, U.S. politicians have responded to the public’s fear of crime by devoting ever more resources to building and strengthening the criminal justice apparatus, which as a result has grown tremendously in size and cost. Policymakers have also taken steps to toughen procedures for dealing with suspects and criminals, and broaden legal definitions of what constitutes crime, which has led to the incarceration, under harsher-than-ever conditions, of a record-high percentage of the U.S. population. Yet public confidence in the criminal justice apparatus is, if anything, lower than ever before, and fear of crime continues to be high.

In recent years, some activists, scholars, criminal-justice officials, and politicians have begun to call for a reexamination of get-tough crime policies. A more sensible approach to crime, they argue, would focus on community justice—that is, on building healthy communities in which criminality cannot take root, and on making citizens and criminal-justice into partners rather than adversaries. In this thought-provoking study, Todd Clear and David Karp provide both a broad theoretical analysis of this ideal, and a close examination of a range of attempts to put it into practice in communities throughout the country. They conclude that by making the criminal justice system and the public into partners rather than adversaries, community-justice strategies for dealing with crime are both more effective and more resource-efficient than the failed get-tough approach.


Todd R. Clear is distinguished professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He has taught previously at Ball State University, Rutgers University, and Florida State University, and has served as a programming and policy consultant to public agencies in over forty states and five nations. His work has been recognized with awards from the Rockefeller School of Public Policy, the American Probation and Parole Association, and the International Association of Paroling Authorities.

David R. Karp is assistant professor of sociology at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. His previous book, Community Justice: An Emerging Field, is a collection of several papers on community justice.

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