Shadows of Doubt reveals how deeply stereotypes distort our interactions, shape crime, and deform the criminal justice system.
If you’re a robber, how do you choose your victims? As a police officer, how afraid are you of the young man you’re about to arrest? As a judge, do you think the suspect in front of you will show up in court if released from pretrial detention? As a juror, does the defendant seem guilty to you? Your answers may depend on the stereotypes you hold, and the stereotypes you believe others hold. In this provocative, pioneering book, economists Brendan O’Flaherty and Rajiv Sethi explore how stereotypes can shape the ways crimes unfold and how they contaminate the justice system through far more insidious, pervasive, and surprising paths than we have previously imagined.
Crime and punishment occur under extreme uncertainty. Offenders, victims, police officers, judges, and jurors make high-stakes decisions with limited information, under severe time pressure. With compelling stories and extensive data on how people act as they try to commit, prevent, or punish crimes, O’Flaherty and Sethi reveal the extent to which we rely on stereotypes as shortcuts in our decision making. Sometimes it’s simple: Robbers tend to target those they stereotype as being more compliant. Other interactions display a complex and sometimes tragic interplay of assumptions: “If he thinks I’m dangerous, he might shoot. I’ll shoot first.”
Shadows of Doubt shows how deeply stereotypes are implicated in the most controversial criminal justice issues of our time, and how a clearer understanding of their effects can guide us toward a more just society.
This book is extraordinary. I cannot conceive of a more important, judicious, well-reasoned, imaginative, comprehensive contribution to the debates about criminal justice. I hope its influence will be broad, deep, and permanent. Every national, state, and municipal policymaker should not only read but study it, and every active citizen, too, should take in its penetrating analyses of the causes and consequences of mass incarceration. Shadows of Doubt takes the debate to a new level.
A gripping work full of technical virtuosity, human decency, and moral seriousness.
Convincing, inspiring, and galvanizing, Shadows of Doubt is a major contribution to the literature on crime, race, and the criminal justice system in the United States.
Shadows of Doubt is compelling and readable; its message needs to be heard and understood more widely in America, and in the world.
Shadows of Doubt is neither timid nor narrow in its approach to many of the key issues of crime and justice facing the U.S. The scope of the book is broad and in most respects it sheds new light on old problems with thoughtful analyses. While most economists are content to focus on a single topic (drugs, capital punishment, guns), O’Flaherty and Sethi employ a comprehensive approach to explaining crime.
A fantastic and sobering book.
A comprehensive argument that stereotyping infects virtually all interactions informing America’s criminal justice system…The authors also provide smart, sophisticated insights into the conditions that lead to high homicide rates and police use of lethal force…and America’s globally unmatched incarceration rate…Illuminating and constructive.
Exceptional…Examines our troubled, racist criminal justice system with depth, maturity, pragmatism, and focus.
The central thesis of Shadows of Doubt is that stereotypes cause interactions to play out in ways which make those very assumptions self-fulfilling.
An important contribution to the understanding of how stereotypes are implicated in the working of the criminal justice system in the United States, and how they have made an impact on social justice…Eminently readable and, yet, does not compromise the depth of analysis.
Important analysis…O’Flaherty and Sethi offer hope that by shifting public discussion and changing the minds and hearts of legislators, errant criminal justice policies just might be reformed.
- 384 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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