A Criminal Justice Reading List
Prepared by Tim Lynch
Read This First
In the Name of Justice, Edited by Timothy Lynch
This book contains essays by leading legal thinkers that examine the role of the criminal sanction in a free society.
On the Principles of Criminal Justice
The Limits of the Criminal Sanction by Herbert
Packer (Stanford University Press, 1968)
A thorough examination of the role of the criminal sanction in a free society.
Criminal Justice? edited by Robert James
Bidinotto (Foundation for Economic Education, 1994)
Too many academics spend their time searching for the “root causes” of crime, such as racism and poverty. This volume makes the unfashionable point that violent crimes are typically “caused” by bad people.
On the Erosion of Civil Liberties
No Crueler Tyrannies by Dorothy Rabinowitz (Free
Tells gripping stories of innocent people who were railroaded into prison by overzealous police and prosecutors.
- “Breaking the
Vicious Cycle” by Timothy Lynch (Policy Analysis no.
443, June 26, 2002)
Critiques the argument that we must “redraw the line between liberty and security” in a post-September 11 environment.
- “Polluting Our
Principles” by Timothy Lynch (Policy Analysis no. 223,
April 11, 1995)
Shows how vital constitutional principles have been frittered away-especially in the context of environmental and “white-collar” crime.
Tyranny of Good Intentions by Paul Craig Roberts
and Lawrence Stratton (Prima Publishing, 2000)
Describes how various legal protections have been discarded and how liberty is thus threatened.
Mugged by the State: Outrageous Assaults on Ordinary People and
Their Property by Randall Fitzgerald (Regnery,
Tells horror stories of ordinary people victimized by over-zealous government officials.
On Worrying Trends in Criminal Law
Company Counsel and Agents of the Federal Government,”
by N. Richard Janis (Cato Institute White Paper, July 14, 2008)
Excellent primer on pernicious prosecutorial trends against business firms, executives, and employees.
- “Overkill: The
Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America” by
Radley Balko (White Paper, July 17, 2006)
This paper presents a history and overview of the issue of paramilitary drug raids, provides an extensive catalogue of abuses and mistaken raids, and offers recommendations for reform.
Overciminalization Phenomenon,” by Erik Luna
(American University Law Review, Vol. 54, page 703, 2005)
Good survey of the expanding criminal law.
- Courtroom 302: A Year Behind the Scenes in an
American Criminal Courthouse by Steve Bogira
The author sat in one criminal courtroom in Chicago for a year and recorded what he saw. The book relates how our criminal law is administered day-to-day, week-to-week. The assembly-line treatment of people is a reality that is not captured in television programs, nightly news reports, or in newspapers. An outstanding work of journalism.
- “An Eerie
Efficiency” by Timothy Lynch ( Cato Supreme Court
Review , 2001-2002, p. 171)
Shows how the government uses plea-bargaining tactics to extort guilty pleas and override constitutional rights.
- “Nationalizing Criminal Law: Does Organized Crime Make
It Necessary or Proper?” by John Baker ( Rutgers Law
Journal vol. 16, p. 495, 1985)
Critiques the unconstitutional expansion of the federal government in crime-fighting.
On the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
- “Trust the
People: The Case Against Gun Control” by David Kopel
(Policy Analysis No. 109, July 11, 1988)
An excellent introduction to the gun control debate.
- A Nation of
Cowards” by Jeff Snyder ( The Public Interest
, Fall, 1993)
Defends the right to bear arms-not because gun control costs more lives than it saves, but because every individual has the right to self-defense.
On the Drug War
“Drug War Addiction” by Sheriff Bill Masters
This slim volume is a passionate critique of the drug war by a law enforcement official.
A Drug-Free America-Or a Free America” by David Boaz (
U.C. Davis Law Review, vol. 24, p. 617, 1991)
Argues that the war on drugs is incompatible with a free society.
- “Thinking About
Drug Legalization” by James Ostrowski (Policy Analysis
no. 121, May 25, 1989)
Another excellent critique of the drug war.