As Chief of the New York City Police Department, William Bratton was fond of saying that the crime rate has the same meaning for a police department as profits have for a business--that the crime rate is the bottom line of policing. This course questions this common view of what goals should govern society's response to crime, exploring how concern with crime itself should and does compete with other aims like due process, retribution, and equity. It is this range of goals, not the single goal of crime reduction, that both justifies public efforts to control crime and motivates important policy actors. These goals offer a framework for assessing crime control strategies, and we will develop it fully by reviewing classic and contemporary readings in philosophy and criminal justice. This framework will be used to analyze current proposals for crime control in a variety of institutional settings, from the traditional criminal justice system (including sentencing policy, policing, corrections, and gun control) to increasingly important areas outside of it (including private sector responses to crime, such as private security and gated communities; and social welfare responses, such as youth development).
Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Planning
As an associate professor of public policy and urban planning, Thacher’s research draws from philosophy, history, and the interpretive social sciences to develop and apply a humanistic approach to policy research. Most of his work has focused on criminal justice policy, where he has undertaken studies of order maintenance policing, the local police role in homeland security, community policing reform, the distribution of safety and security, prisoner re-entry, and criminal justice discretion.