Institutional Fads in Criminal Justice

Joel Best, University of Delaware

Recent analyses point to the importance of fads or fashions in many contemporary institutions, including business management, education, science, and medicine. While criminal justice obviously displays fad-like waves of enthusiasms for different policies, criminal justice fads seem less visible and less important than in other institutions. This paper examines three reasons for this difference: cultural assumptions about progress and perfectability seem less common in discussions of criminal justice policy; channels for disseminating information about innovations are relatively restricted; and would-be reformers find that they have less flexibility than in other institutions.

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Updated 05/20/2006