Academic Year 2010-2011
David A. Green is Assistant Professor of Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. He received his Ph.D. in criminology from Cambridge University and afterwards was a Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church College, Oxford University. He won the European Society of Criminology’s Young Criminologist Award in 2007 and the 2009 British Society of Criminology Book Prize for his first book, When Children Kill Children: Penal Populism and Political Culture (2008, Oxford University Press). His research interests center on the intersection of crime, media, public opinion, and policy in a comparative perspective. More information on Professor Green can be found here:
"Selling Redemption: The Second Chance Act and American Penal Culture"
During my year at the Straus Institute I plan to examine the shifting place of redemption and forgiveness in contemporary American society, particularly in juxtaposition with the punitive sentiments and pressures associated with penal populism. The project will use the Second Chance Act of 2007 as a means to explore the nature of recent shifts in the American penal climate and to assess the Act’s role in shaping the ways in which punishment and redemption have subsequently been regarded.
The inquiry will focus first on the ways in which the Bush administration justified and promoted the Second Chance Act and the notion that “America is the land of the second chance.” It will track the ways in which redemption became a focus of Bush administration policy, the types of frames, narratives, and rationales that were employed to sell the notion of offender reintegration, and how opposition to the Act was framed and subsequently contested. Were the dominant justifications for the Act religious, fiscal, pragmatic, or framed in some other way? The study will also consider consequent changes in the perceived utility and acceptability of offender reintegration and redemption. How did legislative staffers, politicians, and journalists assess public appetites and tolerances for offender reintegration when the Act was conceived, drafted, and debated? Since passage, has the Act had any traceable impacts on public attitudes, and has it helped to relegitimize rehabilitation as a major goal of correctional systems in the face of penal populist pressures? In telling this story, the project will help situate current penal sensibilities and practices within the historical context of past surges of faith and pessimism about rehabilitation and the prospects of offender redemption, from “nothing works” to “what works.”