Jerome Skolnick

Jerome H. Skolnick, a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, is co-director of the Center for Research in Crime and Justice at New York University's School of Law.

Recent Articles

Wild Pitch: 'Three Strikes, You're Out' and Other Bad Calls on Crime

Gut-level intuition is driving the country toward depserate and ineffective measures.

A ccording to the pundits, the polls, and the politicians, violent crime is now America's number one problem. If the problem were properly defined and the lessons of past efforts were fully absorbed, this could be an opportunity to set national crime policy on a positive course. Instead, it is a dangerous moment. Intuition is driving the country toward desperate and ineffectual responses that will drive up prison costs, divert tax dollars from other vital purposes, and leave the public as insecure and dissatisfied as ever. The pressures pushing federal and state politicians to vie for the distinction of being toughest on crime do not come only from apprehensive voters and the tabloid press. Some of the leading organs of elite opinion, notably the Wall Street Journal , have celebrated gut-level, impulsive reactions. In one Journal column ("Crime Solution: Lock 'em Up"), Ben J. Wattenberg writes that criminologists don't know what works. What works is what everyone intuitively knows: "A...

Gangs in the Post-Industrial Ghetto

Though hardly a new phenomenon, gangs of poor youth are once again in the news and movies. There is one new factor: the vanishing prospect of industrial jobs that lead out of poverty.

Over the past decade, news reports and movies have made a broad public increasingly familiar with urban gangs' colors, hand signals, and rap refrains. But to most Americans, the gangs are anything but picturesque. They have emerged as a symbol of a fearsome and depressed urban America and of American economic and moral decline. Gang murders and drug-dealing seem to confirm many Americans' worst suspicions about the dangerous poor, including the idea that self-destructive behavior is now the main cause of poverty. Consequently, the social understanding of gangs is central to the larger debate today about what obligations, if any, Americans recognize toward the poor. Every major city of the United States has gangs, and everywhere they are feared. In many cities, the interconnected problems of gangs, drugs, and violence have touched off community marches and candlelight vigils, political discord, and anti-police sentiment. In Chicago, gang warfare is "out of control," says the president...