OUR CITIES BURN: While We Play Cops and Robbers by Bernard Botein

OUR CITIES BURN: While We Play Cops and Robbers

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A graphic and angry indictment of the criminal courts held together ""by Scotch tape and safety pins,"" grotesquely congested, starved for funds and perpetrating gross miscarriages of justice daily. Botein is most incensed about the malapportionment of funds which gives the cops 80% of monies available for crime control while courts, prisons and rehabilitation programs become increasingly ineffectual and degraded by the logjam. In the first place, says Botein -- who has served in the system as prosecutor, defense counsel and presiding judge of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court -- too many unwarranted arrests are being made, usually ""to remove from the streets people who present an obnoxious appearance to middle-class America."" As an initial step he suggests that drunkenness, prostitution, gambling, traffic and narcotics cases be moved elsewhere to relieve the courts from ""the administration of what are essentially social services."" Detoxification centers, methadone programs, legalized gambling and prostitution -- formalized ""alternatives to prosecution"" -- are desperately needed just to make a dent; beyond that an overhaul of the penal laws and new definitions of criminal conduct. Everything that Botein says has of course been said before by Ramsey Clark (Crime in America, 1970) on down -- as he sadly acknowledges. The distinguishing feature here is the wide range of specific, pragmatic reforms Botein proposes; that and the charge that the nation's current law-and-order frenzy which translates into civic demand for more cops and more arrests is actually detrimental to long-range crime control.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1972
Publisher: Simon & Schuster