Crime and Punishment in America: An Encyclopedia of Trends and Controversies in the Justice System. Edited by Laura L. Finley. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2016. 2 vols. Acid free $189 (ISBN 978-1-6106-9927-3) E-book available (978-1-6106-9928-0), call for pricing.

The American criminal justice system affects people in all walks of life, from street crime to domestic violence to white collar crime. This two-volume set explores not only landmark cases and laws, but also covers prominent figures, policies, and scandals. Further, the set includes entries that explain broader issues such as “Biological Explanations for Crime” and “Sociological Explanations of Crime.”

An informative preface and comprehensive introduction provide a good foundation for the criminal justice novice. The introduction gives an overview of how crime data is collected and analyzed, how the public learns about crime, and the complicated ways in which society tries to understand victims, offenders, and crimes themselves. Underpinning these overviews are the complicated sociological issues that have shaped criminal justice over decades.

Editor Laura L. Finley, who also authored many of the entries in the volumes, has edited other timely encyclopedias on related criminal justice issues covered in this work, including school violence, juvenile crime, and domestic abuse. Her expertise is well applied here.

The 185 entries vary in length; the shortest entries run at least one page or more, and longer entries run several pages, incorporating a great deal of context. For example, “Disabilities and Crime” occupies approximately seven pages, and covers classifications, victims, criminality, police and courts, jails and prisons, the death penalty, and reform efforts as they apply to the topic. The entries are organized alphabetically and feature cross-references to related entries and recommendations for further reading. Black and white photographs appear in a fair number of entries, including both newsworthy and scene-setting images. In addition to a comprehensive index, the second volume includes an appendix of recommended resources sorted by type, including an annotated list of documentaries, books released after 2005, journals of interest, and criminal justice-oriented national organizations.

Though the encyclopedia is commendable for its commitment to timeliness, recent developments have already rendered a few entries out of date. For example, at the close of his administration, President Barack Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning and Oscar Lopez Rivera, who each have entries. This is not a major fault of the work; however, the entry for “Lopez Rivera” specifically cites activists on his behalf putting the odds he would pardoned by President Obama at 1 in 5,000. The activists also noted that he had a 1 in 100 chance of being pardoned by President Bill Clinton, but Lopez Rivera declined a conditional offer of clemency in 1999 (315).

Crime and Punishment in America is not a duplication of Levinson’s Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment (Sage, 2007) or similar larger criminal justice reference works, given its American criminal justice context. The coverage of contemporary issues including asset forfeiture, cyberbullying, and police body cameras, as well as legal battles like the George Zimmerman trial, Kids for Cash, and United States v. Jones make the encyclopedia a timely stand-alone work, or a supplement to larger, more globally focused criminal justice encyclopedias.

The work avoids professional jargon and provides definitions and important context for key figures, laws, policies, and landmark cases. Due to its comprehensive coverage of current, complex crime and punishment topics, this set would be beneficial to both lower- and upper-division students seeking basic yet authoritative information in context as a starting point for further research. Recommended for college libraries that support criminal justice programs.—Emily Lauren Mross, Business and Public Administration Librarian, Penn State Harrisburg, Middletown, Pennsylvania


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