Cleveland-Marshall College of Law will host the Criminal Justice Forum IV, “Why and Whither Mass Imprisonment?,” Wednesday, April 6 at 5 p.m. The lecture will be delivered by Michael Tonry, McKnight Presidential Professor of Criminal Law and Policy at the University of Minnesota Law School.
Despite lots of rhetoric and some symbolic policy developments, all the drivers of mass imprisonment remain in place. No one has yet offered persuasive, generally accepted explanations for why it happened. Violent and property crime rates rose dramatically in all Western countries in the 1970s and 1980s, but only the US responded with vastly increased imprisonment and sentencing laws of unprecedented severity. The knowledge base today on the effects of sanctions is little different than in the early 1980s when the major changes began to be made. Recent convergence of left/right rhetoric about the need for change may augur a less punitive future. The policy changes needed for the US to move back into the mainstream of Western countries, where it was through the mid-1970s, are clear. Only time will tell whether American political culture has changed enough to permit those steps to be taken.
About Michael Tonry
Michael Tonry is the McKnight Presidential Professor of Criminal Law and Policy, director of the Institute on Crime and Public Policy of the University of Minnesota, and a Scientific Member of the Max Planck Institute on Comparative and International Criminal Law in Freiburg, Germany. Previously he was professor of law and public policy and director of the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge University.
Tonry is author or editor of a number of books including Between Prison and Probation (with Norval Morris; OUP 1991), Malign Neglect (OUP 1995), Sentencing Matters (OUP 1996), Thinking About Crime (OUP 2004), Punishment and Politics—Evidence and Emulation in the Making of English Penal Policy (Willan 2004), Punishing Race (OUP 2011), and, as editor, Prosecutors and Politics in Comparative Perspective (Chicago 2012) and Crime and Justice in America, 1975-2025 (Chicago 2013).