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BODY COUNT by William J. Bennett


Moral Poverty . . . and How to Win America's War Against Crime and Drugs

by William J. Bennett & Jr. John & John P. Walters

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-83225-9
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Virtuecrats Bennett and gang haul in the usual suspects in this flat-footed, statistic-heavy collection of warmed-over nostrums. If the doomsayers are right, we are soon in for the mother of all crime waves, as the Baby Boomers' offspring enter their dangerous late teens. Conjoined with the general decline in moral values, community, and sobriety, these teenagers will be horrifingly violent, cold-blooded ``super predators'' bent on mayhem for mayhem's sake. But don't despair: Bennett (The Moral Compass, 1995, etc.), Princeton professor DiIulio, and Walters, the executive director of the Council on Crime in America, have the answers: Restrict alcohol, ratchet up the war on drugs, increase prison sentences, make adoption easier, provide youth with positive role models, improve education, and above all, revive religious faith. To back up their tough-minded prescriptions, they've dredged up all the right corroborating statistics. While their findings are generally convincing—if not downright obvious—the authors could use a refresher course on the abuse and misuse of statistics; for instance, having cited various studies on the correlation of alcohol use and crime, they appropriately warn readers that there is no proof of a causal relationship; but they then do a backflip, citing mere ``common sense'' to support such a relationship. However, they do succeed in exploding several of the more popular canards about crime, including the frequently made assertion that our prisons are filled with nonviolent drug offenders and that poverty is the root cause of criminality. Despite the authors' desire to appear contrarian, most of the recommendations in this book (except the call for a renewed war on drugs) are squarely in the mainstream of modern criminological thought. But then, the virtue industry has never made a virtue of originality. (Book-of-the-Month Club selection; national television/radio satellite tours)