- The website of PRA

Home : Resources on the Right : Conservative Books


Conservative Books

William Bratton
Turnaround: How America's Top Cop Reversed the Crime Epidemic

New York, NY: Random House, 1998

This is William Bratton's dense, play-by-play account of his methods for battling-and "winning"-the war on crime as New York City's police commissioner, as well as a rather self-congratulatory autobiography.

Frank G. Carrington
The Victims

New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House Publishers, 1975

This book laments the preoccupation with the rights of the criminal over the rights of the victim (and future/potential victims) and calls for the wide enforcement of the death penalty, which would allegedly discourage murder and rightly deny killers the right to life. According to Carrington, anti-death-penalty advocates are "for the killer," while death penalty supporters are "for the victim." In fact, Carrington holds that those who advocate for the respect of the human dignity and rights of accused criminals are acting against the victims and "the innocent" in general.

Similarly to other books of this type, the author uses the most violent and gruesome crime cases-often the brutalization of young women and girls as well as public servants-as examples in order to appeal to the reader's sense of moral indignation. The author pleads for stricter law enforcement and victim's rights particularly for the poor, the minorities, and the "ghetto-dwellers" without sufficiently addressing the racist and classist structures that exist in law enforcement itself. He also endorses the toughest changes in law enforcement (in 1975), including life imprisonment for selling marijuana to minors, the significant reduction of parole, and control of the appeals system. In the same vein, he decries the exclusionary rule and Miranda rights and finds no irony in hailing the system of justice in the British Empire.

Joan Petersilia and James Q. Wilson, ed
Crime: Twenty-Eight leading experts look at the most pressing problem of our time

San Francisco, CA: Institute for Contemporary Studies Press, 1995

This book is a collection of essays treating topics such as Criminogenic Traits, Biomedical Factors in Crime, Juvenile Crime, Gun Control, and Prisons. The authors of these essays decry common crime-and-punishment comparisons between the United States and other developed nations as lacking complexity. Articles examine childhood behavior (such as disobedience), early personality traits (such as lack of rootedness in community), biological determinism, neuropsychological factors, and low IQ as indications of later propensity towards crime. The essays concentrate on the role of family structure (and its breakdown), community and social control of crime trends (especially youth gang formation), parenting and discipline, and genetics.

The book addresses juvenile crime relatively failrly, advocating prevention and the allocation of resources for education instead of increased incarceration, as well as making connections between crime and poverty and the complex issue of the criminalization of drug use. At the same time, the analyses of school violence are more typical of a "tough on crime" approach, concentrating on the "root disorder" in inner-city schools that leads to the pushing of boundaries, the breaking of rules, the lessening of authority and increased absence among teachers, and the "dumbing-down" of curriculum to accommodate unmotivated students. Interestingly, the essay entitled "The Schools" faults over-emphasis on academic performance-a product of Cold War competition-for taking the focus away from maintaining order, even as concern for student rights has risen. The essay also questions compulsory high school education.

In addition, the book addresses media portrayals of violence in terms of their connections to the promotion and maintenance of aggressive behavior, as well as perceptions of violence and crime in general. It also discusses alternative gun control policies, the purposes of police work (prevention vs. response), prison overcrowding, and the limiting the role of federal government.

Peter Reinharz
Killer Kids, Bad Law

New York, NY: Barricade Books, 1996

An example of a "get tough on youth crime" treatise, Reinharz's book decries the pardoning of young criminals due to their age and, like many books of its kind, uses the most brutal and violent cases as examples for the harsh treatment and frequent incarceration of youth without addressing the fact that youths incarcerated for minor crime outnumber young violent offenders. While it does not refer to John Dilulio or the "superpredator" theory, it does much to further the idea of the cold, remorseless young inner-city criminal. What differentiates this book from others of its kind is the uncomfortable balance between heart-wrenching accounts of crimes and the unsympathetic, overtly virulent descriptions of the offenders.

Judge Harold J. Rothwax
Guilty: The Collapse of Criminal Justice

New York, NY: Warner Books, 1997

The book begins with a prologue, detailing a list of cases the author, a judge, sees on a weekly basis. This judge prides himself on a lack of leniency and his concentration on the crime rather than the circumstances of the criminal. He is referred to by lawyers as the "Prince of Darkness," a title which he enjoys.

Judge Rothwax laments the legal barriers against sentencing violent criminals because of "fairness" sentiments which, he asserts, lead to the pardoning of criminals as a result of the wrongful seizure of evidence, for example. He apologizes for police involved in these seizures-"they cannot possibly understand all the convoluted laws"-and uses, as examples, very violent and shocking cases, usually involving the brutalization of women and girls, to box the reader into a state of moral indignation that will lead him to agree to the idea of relaxing standards for obtaining evidence in order to convict more people. The judge blasts not only the laws surrounding seizure of evidence but also insanity defenses, speedy trial statutes, and Miranda rights, which he says lead to the suppression of voluntarily-given confessions. His criticisms of the common flaws in the American criminal justice system-such as imperfect jurors-are only used to illustrate cases in which sentences are too lenient. Rothwax does not discuss the unfair and overly harsh convictions that are often the result of such flaws.

James Q. Wilson
Moral Judgment: Does the Abuse Excuse Threaten Our Legal System?

New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997

The major point of this book is that criminals today are able to "blame society" for the problems that forced them to commit crimes, thus succeeding in avoiding responsibility for their acts. Wilson uses cases such as that of the Menendez brothers, who murdered their parents, to decry excuses of insanity, abuse, and the like. At the core of the argument is the idea that if the law concentrates on interpreting and finding causes for behavior, it becomes too lax in punishing criminals. Wislon writes, "The central failing of American criminal law is not the adoption of endless 'abuse excuses,' but blurring the boundaries between imperfect science and commanding law, with the consequent admission into courts of questionable expert testimony."

The author makes assertions while manipulating statistics and facts to validate his viewpoint, such as making the common claim that the inordinately high rate of prisoners in America is both the result of the commonality of crime and the cause of falling crime rates. In addition, Wilson is unwilling to consider or analyze to any great extent the societal patterns behind certain crimes; his judgment is narrowly focused on particular cases and the need to mete out appropriate penalties. While Wilson does warn against the public making too much of the various popular excuses-such as the "Twinkie Defense," which argues that unusual circumstances explain a person's criminal acts-because the excuses are not always taken as seriously in court as the media would have one believe, he asserts that they are still a problem. The author writes that all the excuses-intoxication, stress, depression, insanity, abused woman syndrome, and many claims of self-defense-are really just a way to reduce personal responsibility, and while they have not yet had a major impact on the criminal justice system, they are contributing to a "slippery slope."


Defending Justice is a publication of Political Research Associates (PRA), an independent nonprofit research center that exposes the Right and larger oppressive movements and institutions. PRA produces research and analytic tools to inform and support progressive activism.

Copyright © 2005 Political Research Associates
Copyright Information

Political Research Associates • 1310 Broadway, Suite 201 • Somerville, MA 02144
Voice: 617.666.5300 • Fax: 617.666.6622

Order Defending Justice Now! PRA