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Trial and Error in Criminal Justice Reform

Learning from Failure, Revised Edition

Greg Berman and Aubrey Fox

In this revised edition of their concise, readable, yet wide-ranging book, Greg Berman and Aubrey Fox tackle a question students and scholars of law, criminology, and political science constantly face: what mistakes have led to the problems that pervade the criminal justice system in the United States? The reluctance of criminal justice policymakers to talk openly about failure, the authors argue, has stunted the public conversation about crime in this country and stifled new ideas. It has also contributed to our inability to address such problems as chronic offending in low-income neighborhoods, an overreliance on incarceration, the misuse of pretrial detention, and the high rates of recidivism among parolees. Berman and Fox offer students and policymakers an escape from this fate by writing about failure in the criminal justice system. Their goal is to encourage a more forthright dialogue about criminal justice, one that acknowledges that many new initiatives fail and that no one knows for certain how to reduce crime. For the authors, this is not a source of pessimism, but a call to action. This revised edition is updated with a new foreword by Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., and afterword by Greg Berman. « less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers / Urban Institute
Pages: 166Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/2
978-1-4422-6846-3 • Hardback • March 2016 • $65.00 • (£44.95)
978-1-4422-6847-0 • Paperback • March 2016 • $29.00 • (£19.95)
978-1-4422-6848-7 • eBook • March 2016 • $27.00 • (£17.95)
Greg Berman is the director of the Center for Court Innovation, a public-private partnership that seeks to reduce crime, aid victims, and improve public trust in justice.

Aubrey Fox is director of special projects for the Center for Court Innovation.
1 The Four Types of Failure
2 Failure amid Success
3 The Complicated Legacy of Operation Ceasefire
4 The Billion-Dollar Failure: Parole and the Battle for Reform in California
5 Beyond Simple Solutions:Mastering the Politics of Tragedy in Connecticut
6 Defining Failure
About the Authors
“Greg Berman and Aubrey Fox demonstrate the need for experimentation—trial and error—in developing successful problem-solving programs. Their voice stands in sharp contrast to the bombastic cries and exaggerated claims of most so-called reformers.” (Previous Edition Praise)
Malcolm M. Feeley, Claire Sanders Clements Dean’s Professor, Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, Boalt Hall, University of California Berkeley

“Through a series of fascinating case studies, Berman and Fox make the point that the criminal justice field can learn as much, if not more, from failed reforms as from successful initiatives. I agree and would urge front-line practitioners, policymakers, and scholars to read this provocative book. Far from being a downer, this book charts a promising path for criminal justice reform in this country. I can think of no other book like it.” (Previous Edition Praise)
Joan Petersilia, Adelbert H. Sweet Professor of Law, Stanford University Law School

“Peter Drucker once observed that Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times—but also hit 714 home runs. We needn’t be discouraged by Berman and Fox’s findings; there’s probably more to learn by diagnosing and embracing failure than by thinking we can easily or glibly replicate success. At a time when clarity, transparency, and trust are so lacking and so needed in policy and politics, this book can help us all see more clearly the seeds of failure and the ingredients necessary for sustainable success in criminal justice reform.” (Previous Edition Praise)
Ira A. Jackson, Henry Y. Hwang Dean and Professor of Management, Claremont Graduate University

“If we want today’s reform efforts to produce fundamental change, we would be well advised to heed Greg Berman and Aubrey Fox’s warnings in their award-winning book, Trial & Error in Criminal Justice Reform. They argue that many previous reform attempts might have been successful if we had stayed the course rather than pulling the plug when instant results failed to materialize. We should expect and plan for serious implementation challenges, commit to a sustained reform agenda, and nurture flexible organizations prepared to learn from failure. In short, by moving at a slower and more deliberate pace, we create a promising path for criminal justice reform in America.” –Kathryne M. Young and Joan Petersilia, Harvard Law Review (Previous Edition Praise)

"Berman and Fox provide some fascinating examples of large-scale efforts designed to address mammoth crime problems that ultimately failed...For beginning an inquiry into criminal justice failure, Berman and Fox are to be commended."
– Criminal Justice Review
(Previous Edition Praise)

"In Trial and Error in Criminal Justice Reform Greg Berman and Aubrey Fox tell interesting and instructive stories about criminal justice initiatives and draw lessons from them to help others avoid failure."
(Previous Edition Praise)

"Berman and Fox provide interesting and useful thoughts on how we can learn from failure."
Criminal Justice Policy Review
(Previous Edition Praise)

"An important and engaging book...this is not a dry, academic tome. The authors know how to tell a good story."
Probation Journal
(Previous Edition Praise)

"A rich and valuable source of new ideas."
Prison Service Journal
(Previous Edition Praise)

"An excellent exploration and assessment of why policies collapse...The honest and straightforward research and writing style enhances the findings...Highly recommended."
(Previous Edition Praise)

"Not only a good read but a must read."
(Previous Edition Praise)
Bill Bratton, Commissioner, New York Police Department

""Peter Drucker would love this book."
(Previous Edition Praise)
Ira Jackson, Dean, Drucker-Ito Graduate School of Management

"By writing honestly about failure, the authors reveal what reform can and cannot achieve."
Florida Bar Journal
(Previous Edition Praise)

"Criminal justice practitioners are often reluctant to learn from failure. Berman and Fox set out to change that paradigm."
Reference and Research Book News
(Previous Edition Praise)

"The philosopher John Dewey once wrote that understanding things the way they are is the first step in making them different. This book tells us that understanding failure is the first step to creating a fairer and safer community for everyone."
Cyrus Vance, Manhattan District Attorney

• Prose Award 2010, Honorable Mention for Trial and Error in Criminal Justice Reform: Learning from Failure, First Edition