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Dr. Gaylin brings psychoanalytic methods to bear on the problem of disparities in criminal sentencing. Starting with a discussion of the purposes behind the penal system, he then offers in-depth interviews with four judges and brief excerpts from a number of other discussions. The thrust of his argument is that even judges who are men of good will suffer from ""bias in a non-pejorative sense -- but bias nonetheless and a bias that will influence equity and fairness in exactly the same way as naked bigotry does."" One judge perceives crimes against property as a threat to the social contract; another, more radical, sees them as political acts. Each will use his great discretion in sentencing in accord with his view of the nature of the act being tried. Gaylin's primary focus is on the vast inequities created by judicial bias. He calls for further research into the insufficiently studied problems of prejudice. He doubts the desirability of completely eliminating sentencing discretion, and questions the efficacy of other approaches, such as sentencing by sociologists or by several-judge tribunals. He sketches possible reforms -- including required statements of a judge's reasons for imposing a particular punishment, appellate review of penalties (now largely unavailable), constriction of discretion and shortening of prison terms. This discursive, clinical study offers insights of interest to those concerned with the penal system.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 1974
Publisher: Knopf