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Research suggests that people of all demographics have nuanced and sophisticated notions of justice. In this intriguing new book, Paul H. Robinson demonstrates that judicial decisions that deviate from public conceptions of justice and desert can seriously undermine the American criminal justice system's integrity and legitimacy by failing to recognize or meet the needs of the communities it serves. Intuitions of Justice and the Utility of Desertsketches the contours of a wide range of lay conceptions of justice, touching many if not most of the issues that penal code drafters or policy makers must face, including normative crime control, universal understandings of justice, culpability, principles of adjudication, grading sentencing, justification defenses, and judicial discretion. Robinson warns that compromising the American criminal justice system to satisfy other interests can uncover hidden the costs incurred when a community's notions about justice are not reflected in its criminal laws. By ignoring the intuitions of justice held by the communities they serve, legislators, policymakers, and judges undermine the relevance of the criminal justice system and reduce its strength and legitimacy, creating a gap between what justice a community needs and what justice a court or law prescribes.
Paul H. Robinson is the Colin S. Diver Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania, and is a leading expert on criminal law. Professor Robinson holds law degrees from U.C.L.A., Harvard, and Cambridge. He has served as a federal prosecutor, as counsel for the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Criminal Law, and as one of the original commissioners of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. He is an editor of Criminal Law Conversations (Oxford 2009), and author of Distributive Principles of Criminal Law: Who Should Be Punished How Much? (Oxford 2008) and Law Without Justice: Why Criminal LawDoesn't Give People What They Deserve (Oxford 2005).