Rethinking the Boundaries of 'Criminal Justice' (Book Review)

28 Pages Posted: 16 Dec 2017 Last revised: 21 Mar 2018

Benjamin Levin

University of Colorado Law School

Date Written: December 12, 2017


This review of The New Criminal Justice Thinking (Sharon Dolovich & Alexandra Natapoff, eds.) tracks the shifting and uncertain contours of “criminal justice” as an object of study and critique.

Specifically, I trace two themes in the book:

(1) the uncertain boundaries of the “criminal justice system” as a web of laws, actors, and institutions; and

(2) the uncertain boundaries of “criminal justice thinking” as a universe of interdisciplinary scholarship, policy discourse, and public engagement.

I argue that these two themes speak to critically important questions about the nature of criminal justice scholarship and reform efforts. Without a firm understanding of what constitutes the “criminal justice system,” it is difficult to agree on the proper targets of critique or to determine what legal, social, and political problems are properly the province of “criminal justice thinking.” And, deciding which voices to accept and privilege in these discussions in turn shapes the face of the reform movement and the types of proposals and critiques that are treated as legitimate.

Keywords: criminal law, criminology, criminal procedure, criminal justice, criminal justice system, criminal punishment, prisons, dignity, miserology, race, inequality, criminal justice reform, collateral consequences

JEL Classification: K14, Z13

Suggested Citation

Levin, Benjamin, Rethinking the Boundaries of 'Criminal Justice' (Book Review) (December 12, 2017). Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Forthcoming; U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 17-27. Available at SSRN:

Benjamin Levin (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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