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Criminal: The Truth About Why People Do Bad Things Paperback – 2 Mar 2017

4.8 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (2 Mar. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241960436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241960431
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 80,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

Serious, but so startling that it is hugely readable, too. (James McConnachie, The Times Books of the Year)

About the Author

Tom Gash is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Government and a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Mannheim School of Criminology at the London School of Economics. A regular contributor to debates on public policy and current affairs, he writes for the Independent, Guardian and Financial Times, and speaks frequently on television and radio advocating improvements in crime policy and wider public sector management. Tom has been an adviser to a range of crime policy reviews, including the Flanagan Review of Policing and the UK Drug Policy Commission.


Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A meticulously researched book that powerfully challenges many of the entrenched beliefs and assumptions that are commonly held about crime (including a couple of my own). The alternatives he puts forward seem all the more plausible and persuasive due to his recognition of the complexity of the topic and the provisional and balanced manner he goes about arguing for them. The only thing that I found jarred a little was the title which I feel is perhaps somewhat at odds with the sceptical, pragmatic approach adopted in the book itself. But I’m nit-picking, it was a joy to read and although ethics are barely mentioned I found the book very moral in a subtle way, posing at times some very challenging questions about how we should think about crime. I would highly recommend it not only for experts in the field but also for ordinary citizens like me (and arguably the majority of us) who hold strong opinions about the subject.
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Format: Paperback
There is an awful lot of good sense in this book. Gash takes a series of verities, from both the political right and the left, and punctures them. Crime is not rising, Immigrants do not commit more crimes. Leopards do change their spots - i.e. once a criminal, then not always a criminal. People do go straight. Against the readers of the Daily Mail, he finds that tougher sentences do not deter crime and neither do more bobbies on the beat. It's not the numbers that count. It's how the police are used. On the other hand, against the orthodoxies found in the liberal club, he finds no obvious relationship between poverty and crime and that crime can fall dramatically, in the absence of radical social reforms, in response to simple policy tweaks.

The book gives no end of food for thought. If there is an quibble, then it is in his rhetorical presentation of slaying myths. The evidence does not allow him to slay various myths conclusively - for example, that biology causes crime. What it does do - he himself admits this in the chapter on the relationship between police numbers and crime, - is that the evidence does not unambiguously support widely accepted claims about crime. So for instance he dismisses the link between biology and crime as a myth when in fact there is plenty of good evidence to support such a link. It is that the evidence used to support it is not conclusive in all instances and can be subject to confounding factors. But there is enough evidence to make it unwise to dismiss the link as a mere myth. He makes no mention of the strong relationship between gender and violent crime - 90 per cent of violent offences are committed by men.

The book is also a bit weak on motivation and why people commit crime.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Fascinating and convincing. Full of well-researched insights and meticulously referenced sources, this book will undoubtedly lead anyone to reconsider their views, whether they're of the hang-'em-and-flog-'em persuasion, or the "it's all the fault of society (poverty/inequaity/bad parenting/etc etc)" line. Engagingly written, it would be a surprisingly gripping read even on the beach.
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Excellent read. Base in evidence that is well presented, this book challenges all the assumptions about crime.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very interesting book in which Tom Gash sets out to demolish a series of myths about crime. He offers insightful discussions of a number of important questions, for example, the relationship between immigration levels and crime; the effects of increasing the numbers of bobbies on the beat, the deterrent effect of tough sentencing, and the effectiveness of radical criminal justice reforms. In each chapter, Gash provides extended descriptions of some really fascinating research conducted in this country and elsewhere.

But many of the myths that Gash discusses seem very easy targets, consisting of little more than crude, caricatured images of crime. I doubted myself the value of focusing on these 'myths' particularly since because they seemed often to distort the discussion in order to counter semi-hysterical headlines in the tabloid press.

Nor is the rebuttal of these myths always wholly convincing. I was sometimes left with an uneasy feeling that, despite his extensive lists of notes and references, Gash had not fully grasped the complexities of some of the subjects he discussed or else was too heavily reliant on anecdotes, the odd interview and TV documentaries.

And I'm not sure that the book sheds much light on 'why people do bad things'.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I’m probably not the obvious choice as someone who’d read about crime but having lived in a part of London which has seen a lot of crime and subsequent transformation, there was a lot that was relevant to my experiences. Thought-provoking and full of stories and examples, it’s fun and accessible and quite frankly, cuts through a lot of the crap that we often see portrayed by media. It’s certainly made me think more questioningly about what’s being said about crime before I make up my own decision.
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Format: Paperback
Criminal

Crime is a fascinating subject; in one way or another, it touches our lives daily. Vast sums of public money are expended on the criminal justice system whether, for example, on policing, court process or custodial institutions. We're all familiar with stark press headlines and graphic photos which attempt to persuade us that we're living in the lawless badlands. We're instilled with fear; taught almost by rote that certain ethnic groups pose a violent threat to the great and the good. Bad people chose to do bad things and good people must suffer the consequences. The other common perception is that crime results from poor social conditions, in other words, people are forced into bad life choices because they've suffered deprivation. It's not their fault and things would be different if their circumstances hadn't forced them into this behaviour.

In Criminal, Tom Gash considers both sides of this diametrically opposed paradigm and draws a very different and interesting conclusion. His approach is refreshing and readable. He presents both sides of a flawed rationale in a reasoned way, citing examples and I found his conclusions both interesting and relevant.

To be fair, this isn't a title that I'd have come across in my usual reading. I was given an ARC edition by the Bookmarks team from Penguin Random House as a gift. But serendipity works in strange ways and it proved a fascinating and very accessible read. It's filled with literary reference, showing the extent to which society reacts according to 'type'. I've been directly involved in both the judicial and legal system in the course of work. I was often frustrated by conditioned expectation and the fallacy on which much is based and vast sums are expended.
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