The Public Interest

Ironies of American law enforcement

David H. Bayley

Spring 1980

BOTH Americans and foreigners believe that the United States has developed an horrendous problem with crime. We consider ourselves notorious and a bad example to other nations in the world. Judged historically, this view is probably too bleak. There are reasons for thinking we may be more secure from crime today than during most periods in our national history. Nevertheless, when we compare our crime problems with those of other countries, there is reason for Americans to be disquieted. It does appear that crime is significantly more prevalent in the United States than in other countries of similar economic and political character. This is reason enough to think seriously about crime in America, and about our criminal justice system.  When such an effort is made, one discovers a number of ironies about American criminal justice.

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