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The Policy Dilemma

The Policy Dilemma: Federal Crime Policy and the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, 1968-1978

Malcolm M. Feeley
Austin D. Sarat
Copyright Date: 1980
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    The Policy Dilemma
    Book Description:

    The Policy Dilemma was first published in 1981. What can and should the federal government do to solve complex social problems? Malcolm M. Feeley and Austin D. Sarat address this question in the context of one important issue, the problem of crime. They examine a major federal program, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, and show how its operation is shaped and reflects what they call the “policy dilemma.” In response to the public’s demands, the government tries to do too much and promises more than it can deliver. While The Policy Dilemma is first of all a study of the federal government’s attempts to reform and improve criminal justice, it also examines broader issues of public policy making. The problems faced by the LEAA in crime control are shared by all governmental attempts to attack large, insufficiently defined social problems. The authors base their conclusions on extensive interviews with federal, state, and local officials responsible for implementing the Safe Streets Act, including members of ten state planning agencies. In conclusion, Feeley and Sarat summarize the problems of the Safe Streets Act and review congressional attempts at revision and reorganization. They argue that those attempts will only prolong the policy dilemma. The failure of the LEAA, they suggest, is not just a failure of administration but of concept and political theory.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5553-3
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    M.M.F. and A.S.
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    Crime, criminality, and what to do about both have proven to be major problems for the American people and for government officials since the founding of the republic. Crime traditionally has been perceived as a threat not only to individual well-being but also to the maintenance of social trust and community solidarity.¹ Yet concern about the problem of crime and attempts to deal with it have been episodic. Periodic crime waves have met with—or perhaps been caused by—marked increases in citizen concern and generally futile efforts to “stamp out” crime. Despite its persistence, the crime problem and efforts...

  5. 1 The Policy Dilemma and the Problem of Crime
    (pp. 9-33)

    Splashy, highly publicized, expensive federal programs are a regular and well-known part of the landscape of American politics. Whether through incremental addition or ambitious undertaking, the scope of the federal policy domain is beyond the imagination and comprehension of even the most skilled political analyst. It is almost impossible to conjure up an area of private life for which there is not an array of federal programs and policy commitments. In each of those areas federal intervention has either displaced or supplemented private regulation or the reach of state and local interest. One of the most recent as well as...

  6. 2 Federal Crime Policy: The Safe Streets Act of 1968
    (pp. 34-61)

    Crime and what to do about it have occasionally been important issues in American electoral politics. The crime issue is, in a large part, an aspect of the symbolic drama of politics. The sensational murder, the uncovered plot, the outbreak of riot are the cornerstones on which electoral politics are from time to time built.¹ As an issue, however, crime has generally been most important at the local level. Crime waves and crusades to combat them by and large have been constructed, uncovered, and fought by candidates criticizing the performance of local police and prosecutors.² Only episodically, as in the...

  7. 3 Thinking about Crime: Comprehensive Planning and the Ideal of Rationality
    (pp. 62-90)

    If, as we have argued, the policy dilemma in American politics centers on the lack of congruence between public demand for government services and the structural and ideological capacity to provide them, nowhere is that dilemma so well illustrated as in the Safe Streets Act’s requirement to plan. Even as the Act mandated the creation of state and regional agencies for the purpose of developing comprehensive plans, it created a structure that was incapable of meaningfully carrying out this function.

    To be successful, planning and planned intervention in complex systems require several distinct stages: (1)the construction of a map or...

  8. 4 New Answers to Old Problems: Innovation
    (pp. 91-112)

    The Safe Streets Act marked a substantial departure in the federal government’s involvement with the crime problem. The strategy of this new involvement was to establish the federal government as a source of money and technical assistance to state and local agencies who would retain primary law enforcement responsibilities, but would use this assistance to support planning, self-study, and new and innovative projects. The rationale behind the Act was that the infusion of federal money would allow law enforcement officials to try new approaches for which there was little room in the already tight budgets of state and local governments....

  9. 5 Finding Out What Works: Evaluation and the Limits of the ʺScientificʺ Paradigm
    (pp. 113-132)

    By 1968 the Great Society had come under intense criticism for investing large amounts of federal money in programs and policies which did not work.¹ Many of those programs and policies were enacted without designing or requiring regular and systematic assessments of their effectiveness and impact. Critics argued that this put policymakers in the position of “groping in the dark” and handicapped them in their efforts to adjust ongoing social programs incrementally or to terminate those which proved wasteful or ill-considered. The passage of the Safe Streets Act did not indicate any radical departure from the pattern of expenditure without...

  10. 6 Conclusions: Incoherence, Implementation, and the Dilemma of National Crime Policy
    (pp. 133-148)

    There are times in which social problems, including crime, seem overwhelming in their complexity and intractability. We are in such a time now. This pessimism is largely a function of the combined progress of our understanding of problems like crime and the ambition of governmental efforts to resolve them. American politics and public policy run in cycles,¹ and we cannot and should not ignore the fact that confrontation with problems breeds exaggerated expectations which also lead to pessimism. This in turn can easily lead to the abandonment of a willingness even to address and tackle complex social issues on the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 151-162)
  12. Index
    (pp. 165-172)