The Current Crisis of American Criminal Justice: A Structural Analysis

David Garland

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    This review situates the recent, radical challenges to American criminal justice mdash calls to end mass incarceration, defund the police, and dismantle systemic racism mdash within the broader social and economic arrangements that make the US system so distinctive and so problematic. It describes the social structures, institutions, and processes that give rise to America's extraordinary penal state mdash as well as to its extraordinarily high rates of homicide and social disorder mdash and considers what these portend for the prospect of radical change. It does so by locating American crime and punishment in the structural context of America's (always-already racialized) political economy mdash a distinctive set of social structures and institutional legacies that render the United States more violent, more disorderly, and more reliant on penal control than any other developed nation. Drawing on a broad range of social science research findings, it argues that this peculiar political economy mdash a form of capitalism and democratic governance forged on the anvils of slavery and racial segregation and rendered increasingly insecure and exclusionary in the decades following deindustrialization mdash generates high levels of social disorganization and criminal violence and predisposes state authorities to adopt penal control as the preferred policy response.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)43-63
    Number of pages21
    JournalAnnual Review of Criminology
    StatePublished - Jan 27 2023


    • criminal violence
    • mass incarceration
    • police killings
    • political economy
    • social control
    • welfare state

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Law


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