Jerome Skolnick

Jerome H. Skolnick, a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, is co-director of the Center for Research in Crime and Justice at New York University's School of Law.

Recent Articles

Passions of Crime

Getting tough on crime has always been popular. Now there's also big money in it. Crime policy today is a study in irrational passions and rational interests.

WORKS DISCUSSED IN THIS ESSAY David C. Anderson, Crime and the Politics of Hysteria: How the Willie Horton Story Changed American Justice (Times Books, 1995). Diana R. Gordon, The Return of the Dangerous Classes: Drug Prohibition and Policy Politics (W.W. Norton, 1994). Wendy Kaminer, It's All the Rage: Crime and Culture (Addison-Wesley, 1995). T he self-reinforcing effects of a criminal career are a staple of criminological lore. Felons commit crimes, which plunge them deeper into criminal networks; they go to prison, where their ties with other criminals are reinforced; they bear the stigma of ex-convict, which limits their legitimate opportunities. America today, however, has a new vicious circle--not of crime behavior but of crime politics and policy. The symbolic politics of crime demand stiffer penalties, which lead to increased spending, which enriches the enforcement and penal bureaucracies. These groups, in turn, contribute to the campaigns of politicians who play upon fears...

Gangs in the Post-Industrial Ghetto

Though hardly a new phenomenon, gangs of poor youth are once again in the news and movies. There is one new factor: the vanishing prospect of industrial jobs that lead out of poverty.

Over the past decade, news reports and movies have made a broad public increasingly familiar with urban gangs' colors, hand signals, and rap refrains. But to most Americans, the gangs are anything but picturesque. They have emerged as a symbol of a fearsome and depressed urban America and of American economic and moral decline. Gang murders and drug-dealing seem to confirm many Americans' worst suspicions about the dangerous poor, including the idea that self-destructive behavior is now the main cause of poverty. Consequently, the social understanding of gangs is central to the larger debate today about what obligations, if any, Americans recognize toward the poor. Every major city of the United States has gangs, and everywhere they are feared. In many cities, the interconnected problems of gangs, drugs, and violence have touched off community marches and candlelight vigils, political discord, and anti-police sentiment. In Chicago, gang warfare is "out of control," says the president...