Street Level Bureaucrats And The Revival Of Rehabilitation

OK, it is self-promotion, but since my article (co-written with Austin Smith) is now officially out in volume 91 of the Iowa Law Review I’ll take the chance to flog it here. The New Rehabilitation, available for free! free! free! in an earlier version from SSRN, challenges the received wisdom that rehabilitation is dead in American criminal justice. It also challenges the underlying assumption of most commentators that punishment policy is created from the top down – prinicipally by legislators. Pointing to the rise of specialty juvenile tribunals – like drug and mental health courts – it argues that street level bureaucrats (to use the language of political scientist Michael Lipsky) actually have a substantial role in shaping punishment policy. These local officials – judges, DA’s, probation officers, and others – crafted local courts that manage to avoid, or subvert, legisliative efforts to convert juvenile justice to a more punitive model. This new rehabilition isn’t available to all defendants, however. The specialty courts cream the less worrisome defendants and redirect them to alternative procedures while relegating the tougher kids to harsher juvenile or adult processes. I hear that this issue of the Iowa Law Review includes a limited edition Fountains of Wayne CD, but haven’t yet received confirmation.

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3 Responses

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