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William Stuntz: Crime and Punishment and the Fight Against Racial Injustice

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Posted on Jan 16, 2014
Prison (CC BY 2.0)

The Nation magazine has honored the legacy of Harvard professor William Stuntz. He spent his career fighting the plight of racial discrimination and was a socially conservative evangelical Christian whose efforts allied him across all political systems.

While battling cancer and facing death, he was able to finish arguably one of the most important books about law in the United States in the past 30 years, “The Collapse of American Criminal Justice.” In the book, Stuntz goes after the prison industrial complex and the American criminal justice system’s role among a wide range of topics. The book forces the reader to see what went wrong and the path to making it right. In short, these are his two general solutions:

The first part of it is structural: “local democracy” must be restored to the criminal justice system by reducing plea bargaining and holding more jury trials—and the jurors must live in the same communities as the victims and the accused. The second part of Stuntz’s answer is technical: he argues that we must turn away from the law of criminal procedure—broadly speaking, the guarantees of the Bill of Rights like the right to counsel and the freedom from unlawful search and seizure—and toward the substantive law of equal protection, which theSupreme Court left for dead during Reconstruction.

—Posted by Donald Kaufman

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