The American Criminal Justice System

How It Works, How It Doesn't, and How to Fix It

by Gerhard Falk


The criminal justice system is constantly in the news for one reason or another. It is overloaded, flawed, and takes actions that are controversial. To make matters worse, the media constantly distorts the criminal justice system by treating it as a form of entertainment. How do we more closely approach the American ideal?

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Cover image for The American Criminal Justice System

March 2010


Pages 250
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Crime/General

This critical yet honest appraisal of our criminal justice system addresses its strengths and its flaws—and makes recommendations for improvement.

The American Criminal Justice System: How It Works, How It Doesn't, and How to Fix It calls attention to a criminal justice system that needs improvement. Author Gerhard Falk shows that the police themselves often violate the law; that prosecutors send innocent citizens to prison and even to death row; that defense attorneys take on cases they are not prepared to handle; that juries vote guilt or innocence on the basis of emotion, not facts; that judges are often failed attorneys or unscrupulous politicians; and that jails and prisons are too frequently warehouses of the poor.

As background for his analysis, Falk discusses the history of the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges, as well as the history of prisons and "the prison industrial complex." He also offers a devastating analysis of the death penalty and its practitioners. The book ends with recommendations for the improvement of our criminal justice system so that America can truly be, as our Supreme Court proclaims, a land of “Equal Justice under Law.”


  • Provides an extensive bibliography including books, journal articles, newspaper accounts, and government documents
  • Includes a chronology


  • Enables the nonexpert, general reader to understand the American criminal justice system, including its successes, its flaws, and its future
  • Offers both a history and a critique of the American criminal justice system
  • Takes a sobering look at the real practices within the criminal justice system, including policing, the prosecution of crime, the conduct of defense attorneys, politics and the criminal justice system, and our high rate of incarceration
  • Discusses the death penalty and its failure, presenting arguments for and against the practice, and showing that it does not prevent murder, but results in the death of innocent people
Author Info

Gerhard Falk, PhD, is professor of sociology at the State University of New York, College at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY. He is the author of 19 books and 40 journal articles. Dr. Falk is the recipient of the New York State University Research Foundation's Award for Excellence in Scholarship, the State University College President's Award for Excellence in Creativity, and the State University of New York Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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