Vol. 24 No. 11 (November 2014) 539-541

RIGHTS AND COURTS IN PURSUIT OF SOCIAL CHANGE: LEGAL MOBILIZATION IN THE MULTI-LEVEL EUROPEAN SYSTEM, by Dia Anagnostou (ed.). Portland, OR: Hart Publishing. 2014. 240 pp. Cloth: $84.70. ISBN: 9781849463904.

Reviewed by David Schultz, Department of Political Science, Hamline University. Email: dschultz@hamline.edu.

Legal mobilization and caused-based lawyering is a frequent topic of analysis among American public law scholars, asking questions about the capacity or the legitimacy of the courts to achieve social change. Scholars as diverse as Muir (1973), Scheingold (1978), Sorauf (1976), Horowitz (1977), Cooper (1988), Rabkin (1989), Feeley and Rubin (1998) and Rosenberg (1991) have examined the impact that Supreme Court decisions have had on social change. Additionally, McCain (1994) and Schultz (1998) have addressed the role of interest groups and lawyers in affecting litigation and using the courts for policy change. Largely the conclusion is that the courts, lawyers, and social groups can achieve some change under the right conditions. However, little research has been done by either American or non-American scholars on legal mobilization and caused-based lawyering in Europe, especially that involving the European Union. Dia Anagnostou’s book is a good first step in addressing this gap.

Anagnostou’s edited volume takes as its intellectual starting point Stuart Scheingold’s THE POLITICS OF RIGHTS and to a lesser extent Gerald Rosenberg’s THE HOLLOW HOPE. Both of these works raised questions about the efficacy of rights-based claims to achieve social change and, especially with Rosenberg, the ability of groups to mobilize and use the courts, especially, the Supreme Court, to achieve social change. Both books provided guarded suggestions regarding the conditions and circumstances under which going to the court made sense to make policy or create or vindicate rights. Both Scheingold and Rosenberg write within the context of an American culture fixated on pursuing a rights-based strategy. Cultural and governance changes in Europe have created new opportunities for legal mobilization or a rights-based strategy.

Anagnostou notes how Europe, especially those within the jurisdiction of the European Union (EU) or the Council of Europe, have witnessed a rights revolution. This revolution has occurred for several reasons. First, the expansion of the EU, especially to many formerly communist countries, has brought with it expanded new rights. This is also the case with their membership within the Council of Europe. But even for Western European and the historically non-communist countries, both the EU and the Council of Europe have fostered a new rights culture. The Council of Europe, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and with that, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), has meant that diverse parties can now challenge sovereign laws as violations of the ECHR. Moreover, recent adoption of human rights provisions in the EU similarly means that parties can either challenge in domestic courts or in European Court of Justice (ECJ) alleged human rights violations. While not trying to force the metaphor, membership in the EU and the ECHR is almost like the Bill of Rights [*539] incorporation movement in the United States. It opened up the federal courts to rights adjudication, while at the same time forcing state courts to hear federal claims. Incorporation and the federalization of rights claims in the U.S. eventually lead to changes in State constitutions, thereby creating multiple venues and forums to pursue rights strategies.

After the introductory chapter, the book unfolds into three sections. Chapters two to four examines language rights of minorities across Europe (chapter two) with chapter three looking at legal mobilization to protect those rights in Navarre, Spain. Chapter four looks to how the left and lawyers mobilized to protect rights in France since 1968. Part two of the book focuses on the use of European courts as opportunities for legal mobilization, with attention given to domestic sovereign courts as well as the ECtHR and ECJ. Chapter six is a case study of Greece and how its courts and lawyers had to respond to changes in rights adjudication for migrants and asylum seekers. One of the major conclusions of this chapter is the impact that EU and Council of Europe membership had on issues such as jurisdiction and the ability of individuals in Greece to use that nation’s judiciary to litigate claims. Finally, part three explicates the role of NGOs in legal mobilization and rights strategies, with chapter seven looking at rights during armed conflict, chapter eight examining gay rights and chapter nine drawing general conclusions for the entire book.

Europe offers multiple contexts and opportunities for legal mobilization for rights. These occur at different levels of government. There is almost a E.E. Schattschneider aspect to rights litigation in Europe, with different groups socializing, shrinking or expanding the location of adjudication depending on a host of factors, including whether domestic courts have broad enough concepts of standing to allow for a case to be heard, what the issue is, how receptive local courts are to it, or whether there is sufficient publicity locally or across Europe for a case to receive a sympathetic hearing. It might not quite be accurate to say that litigants forum shop but that appears to be the case. While one conclusion of the book is that trans-European rights is driving a convergence of legal norms and creating new opportunities for rights claims, national differences still fragment many claims. Some countries still are less hospitable to some litigation and despite pressures from the ECtHR and the ECJ, who the litigant is, what is being litigated, and where, make a difference.

One also learns from this volume that we must look for the efficacy and impact of legal-mobilization and rights-strategy in different ways. The general tendency of research in the United States has been to focus on the U.S. Supreme Court and ignore lower federal and state courts. Another failure has been to assume litigants always seem intent on using the law and courts for singular and similar purposes and not understanding the different ways groups and individuals mobilize for a variety of objectives. The strength of this book is an appreciation of the multiplicity of approaches and strategies among parties. It also points to change as occurring in how local law is altered, jurisdiction affected, or otherwise how policy change occurs in an often dialogical approach across multiple levels and institutions, even beyond the courts.

What one takes away from this volume are several important lessons. First, the [*540] changing legal structure in Europe is creating new opportunities to mobilize for rights. Second, legal strategies work but only up to a point. Third, as the editor indicates, legal mobilization and rights litigation is relatively new to much of Europe and it is going through a learning curve. This learning curve affects strategy and goals. Finally, the book offers powerful comparisons and perhaps even lessons for the literature and researchers who have focused almost exclusively on the U.S. One weakness of the book is that it does not as substantively as it could draw on the U.S. scholarship on this topic,,at times almost making it look like no one has examined the topic of rights mobilization in a federal context. But the parallels and contrasts between the U.S. and Europe offer enticing possibilities for future research in terms of what both can learn from one another and what differences are significant in terms of making a difference in describing the efficacy of using the courts for social change.



Feeley, Malcolm M. and Edward L. Rubin. 1998. JUDICIAL POLICY MAKING AND THE MODERN STATE: HOW THE COURT’S REFORMED AMERICA’S PRISONS. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Horowitz, Donald 1977. THE COURTS AND SOCIAL POLICY. Washington, D.C. The Brookings Institution.

McCann, Michael. 1994. RIGHTS AT WORK: PAY EQUITY REFORM AND THE POLITICS OF LEGAL MOBILIZATION. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Muir, William. 1973. LAW AND ATTITUDE CHANGE. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Rosenberg, Gerald. 1991. THE HOLLOW HOPE: CAN COURTS BRING ABOUT SOCIAL CHANGE? Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Scheingold, Stuart A. 1978. THE POLITICS OF RIGHTS: LAWYERS, PUBLIC POLICY, AND POLITICAL CHANGE. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Schultz, David, 1998. LEVERAGING THE LAW: USING THE COURTS TO ACHIEVE SOCIAL CHANGE. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Sorauf, Frank J. 1976. WALL OF SEPARATION: THE CONSTITUTIONAL POLITICS OF CHURCH AND STATE. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

© Copyright 2014 by the author, David Schultz.


Vol. 24 No. 11 (November 2014) pp. 533-538

SECURITIES AGAINST MISRULE: JURIES, ASSEMBLIES, AND ELECTIONS, by Jon Elster. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2013. 324pp. Cloth $85.00. ISBN: 9781107031739. Paper $29.99. ISBN: 9781107649958.

Reviewed by Patrick Peel, Department of Political Science, The University of Montana. Email: patrick.peel@umontana.edu.

Given the necessary complexities of democratic government, doubt as to whether the will of the people is in fact represented seems perennial. Such doubts, while not disappearing, may nevertheless recede to the background during times of perceived consensus; but in times of stress, in the aftermath of exogenous or endogenous societal shocks, background worries about democratic representation tend to move to the foreground.

One consequence of this recurrent doubt has been the rich literature on democratic theory. Indeed, spurred by recent events, theorizing about democratic government appears to be accelerating. New interventions include: “epistemic theories of democracy” – theories arguing that the superior quality of democratic decision-making offers normative reasons for endorsing it – such as David Estlund’s DEMOCRATIC AUTHORITY (2009), Jack Knight and James Johnson’s THE PRIORITY OF DEMOCRACY (2011), and Hélène Landemore’s DEMOCRATIC REASON (2012); Philip Pettit’s republican model of democracy in ON THE PEOPLE’S TERMS (2013); and David Runciman’s historical-cum-theoretical diagnosis of modern democracy in THE CONFIDENCE TRAP (2013). A noteworthy feature of these new works, for those not necessarily enamored with the intramural debates of political theorists, is the move away from ideal toward non-ideal theory in the hopes of tying the mechanisms of institutional design to normative epistemological and moral concerns. This, then, is democratic theory built on premises seeking realism, engaging with empirical social science, and attentive to the intellectual resources necessary for social reform.

Enter Jon Elster, who in earlier work helped to re-invigorate Marx in the 1980s, supporting the development of analytical Marxism (1985), went on in the 1990s to provide intellectual firepower to the development of deliberative democracy (1986, 1993, 1998), and most recently developed a sustained critique of the more robust ambitions of social science (think rational choice theory) to explain social behavior (2007), having published some twenty-three books in all. Growing out of lectures Elster delivered at the Collège de France between 2008 – 11, SECURITIES AGAINST MISRULE thus represents the work of a mature scholar and a major intervention in the new literature on democratic decision-making.

The core claim of the book is that ambitious normative theories of collective decision-making that seek to design institutional mechanisms for tracking an independently definable good, or a procedure for selecting reliably good decision makers, are unavailable to us. Yet what appears at [*533] first a bleak conclusion – “What then are we to do if we cannot design institutions to produce ‘good decisions’ or pick out ‘good decision makers?’” – need not leave us at sea. When designing institutions of collective decision-making (whether jury trials, political assemblies, or electoral systems) we ought seek not to design institutions that “produce good outcomes,” but rather, adopting a phrase from Jeremy Bentham, to design institutions that “provide securities against misrule.” Doing so, Elster suggests, secures us against institutions that might otherwise, again quoting Bentham, “prevent the development of [our] liberty and… intelligence.”

In this review, given the range and depth of Elster’s arguments in support of the above contention, I shall limit my comments to the features of his work that may be of particular interest to readers of the LAW AND POLITICS BOOK REVIEW. To that end, I focus on Elster’s chapter on trial juries, the role of constitutional assemblies and their relationship to constitutional design, and his endorsement and modification of John Hart Ely’s well-know justification for judicial review as democracy reinforcing (Ely 1980). While Elster discusses the last point only briefly, his suggestion here seems promising, potentially representing a research opportunity for students of law and politics, and thus is mentioned in this review.

Elster’s second chapter, “Ignorance, Secrecy, and Publicity in Jury Decision Making,” examines the question of “Who knows what and when, in a jury trial?” A focus on that question, Elster suggests, allows us to see a range of institutional mechanisms that might be put in place to ensure secrecy or publicity, knowledge or ignorance, at the right places and times to screen jury decisions from “interest, passion, prejudice and bias” (p. 100). With this framework in place, Elster’s chapter considers, first, the composition of the jury from the creation of a master pool, through the selection of a panel, to formation of the jury itself, and then second, the dynamic of the trial from the examination of witnesses, the instruction by judges, and the deliberation and votes of jurors. Elster’s conclusion: we ought not screen jurors for preexisting bias, prejudice, or personal interest, thereby indirectly attempting to shape the jury to reach “good” outcomes, but rather “we should screen the information on which they base their decision, as well as insulate them physically from bribes and threats” (p. 141). To that end, Elster’s examination results in a series of institutional recommendations: combining ex ante secrecy and ex post publicity of voting in juries; enforcing a ban on the sale and serving of liquor to jurors; seating jurors in unadorned rooms; selecting jury forepersons by secret ballot; offering jurors information in ways that minimize cognitive bias; disallowing knowledge of a defendant’s previous criminal record; and delaying jury trials in highly publicized cases (p. 272).

Like trial juries, but unlike legislatures, constitutional assemblies are not ongoing institutions for collective decision-making, but one-off bodies. After briefly laying out several classic reasons for placing constitutional constraints on governmental power – “the need to prevent those in power from using their power to keep their power” [*534] and the prevention of civil war via a focal point principle – Elster focuses in chapter four not on the task of designing a constitution, but rather on the question of how one ought to design a constitutional assembly. This approach, in part, follows from the central thesis of the book: we cannot define the concept of a “good constitution” via reference to some independently specified criteria of goodness, and thus cannot discover the optimal design of a constitutional assembly by first discovering what a “good constitution” is. Hence, as in the case of jury trials, Elster’s negative approach to collective decision-making leads him to focus on how to remove passion, interest, bias, or prejudice from the process. Yet whereas in the case of jury trials these ends were best achieved indirectly (because the direct attempt by legislatures, judges and lawyers to remove these influences in fact represents an attempt to shape the jury), in the case of a constitutional assembly, more direct mechanisms of securing against misrule are available. Elster counsels us to focus on promoting impartial decision-making, removing cognitive biases, and promoting the full-attention and concentration of constitution-makers (p. 202). Once in place, this framework is then applied to analyze the task of the constituent assembly, the location of the assembly, the secrecy or publicity of the debates and votes in the assembly, and, finally, the ratification of the constitution produced by the assembly. Students of comparative constitutionalism should find this chapter particularly enlightening, as Elster makes use of a range of historical examples, including periods of constitution framing for the German 1919, Japanese 1947, Italian 1947, and German 1949 constitutions, and incorporates discussions or points regarding the framing of United States Constitution as well as those of Columbia, Venezuela, Norway, Spain, and France, among others. And as is the case with the other chapters in SECURITIES this chapter contains several telling insights and brilliant associations. For instance, who knew that George Mason emphasized something like Rawls’ veil of ignorance to promote intergenerational impartiality and a rough approximation of the difference principle?

Now, as mentioned above, Elster’s general recommendation is that we seek to protect ourselves from the downside risks of designing institutions that harm us as citizens, rather than seeking to design institutions that produce good outcomes. “When we have done all we can to remove distorting factors from the decision-making process,” he says, “we should simply let the chips fall where they may and accept the outcome, whatever it is” (p. 281). But surely, the reader may object, there will ensue some decisions of juries or legislatures rendered so badly due to remaining distortions (this, after all, is non-ideal theory) that some mechanism is necessary to override them? Elster agrees and devotes a portion of SECURITIES’ conclusion to a discussion of “overriding” mechanisms. In the case of juries, Elster endorses Harry Kalven and Hans Zeisel’s (1971) claim in THE AMERICAN JURY that in “cross-overs” (cases in which the judge presiding over a case notes that he or she would have been more lenient than the jury) there should be an asymmetry in the role of the judge in acquittals and convictions of juries. This principle fits, Elster argues, within the [*535] framework of SECURITIES, empowering judges to set aside jury verdicts particularly in cases where decisions have been made by a simple or qualified majority of jurors.

In the case of legislatures, Elster’s recommendation is particularly suggestive. He extends John Hart Ely’s democracy reinforcing justification of judicial review as advanced in DEMOCRACY AND DISTRUST, which Elster sees as rightly procedural and thus negative in spirit in contrast to more positive, substantive justifications for judicial review. Yet procedural need not mean thin. Protecting against misrule requires robust procedural safeguards to “promote the active, moral, and intellectual aptitude of deputies”; nothing about this stipulation, in Elster’s view, fundamentally conflicts with Ely’s framework. Critics of judicial review influenced by Jeremy Waldron are not likely to be satisfied with this argument (Waldron 2006); neither will moral readers of the constitution influenced by Ronald Dworkin (1997). Both will think Elster has begged important questions, either by placing too much emphasis on procedural justifications for constitutional review, or failing to understand the substantive justifications that support the practice. Still, Ely’s argument remains influential, particularly among lawyers and judges. Elster’s modification, extension, and incorporation of it within his negative Benthamite framework of collective decision-making thus represent a welcome addition to debates on the nature and function of judicial review. Thus, scholars interested in ways of extending Ely’s argument are well advised to turn to Elster’s brief discussion as a springboard to further thought.

Elster clearly does not intend SECURITIES to be the last word on developing a negative, Benthamite approach to collective decision-making. And further work along one specific dimension appears necessary for the full force of his argument to be realized. To wit: Elster says he is doing normative theory and clearly believes that factual and causal information is necessary for normative inquiry, which, as I suggested at the outset, is a particular virtue of the current wave of democratic theory. But upon what causal and factual information his normative theory depends remains unclear. Take the case of the souped-up procedural justification for judicial review Elster suggests: exactly what factual and causal information is required by courts to monitor the democratic system? Here, then, is an opportunity for empirically oriented scholars of law and politics to flesh out the causal and factual information necessary to pursue a research program centered around the negative approach Elster recommends, be it within the jury, assemblies or elections.

While I have restricted my attention to aspects of SECURITIES AGAINST MISRULE that promise to be of particular interest to students of law and politics, a final feature must not be overlooked. Elster’s text is, quite simply, an intellectual delight – something rare in this age of hyper-publishing and the current scholarly predilection to be part of the “next new thing” – citing as it does the Leveler John Lilburn, Mn. De Staël, T.H. Green, Habermas, Proust, Shakespeare, Tocqueville, Pascal, and [*536] Schmitt, not to mention CITIZENS UNITED V. FEDERAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE (2010), BATSON V. KENTUCKY (1986), THE AMERICAN JURY, and a range of historical and empirical examples centering on jury trials, constitutional practice, and democratic theory. Here one senses the qualities of fluidity and dexterity that a lifetime of scholarship and intellectual engagement can engender, as Elster moves through the space of reason, plumbing depths, while nevertheless retaining a lightness of thought, not unlike his intellectual hero Montaigne or the jazz musician Lester Young, whom he discusses and so admires.

It may be the case that the necessary complexities of democratic government will continue to drive us to skepticism as to whether the procedures we design do in fact represent the will of the people. But if such worries continue to generate books as sophisticated, enlightening, and indeed delightful as SECURITIES AGAINST MISRULE, then perhaps we can continue to invest faith in our ability to work out rules and procedures that we can relate to collectively.


Dworkin, Ronald. 1997. FREEDOM’S LAW: THE MORAL READING OF THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Elster, Jon. 1985. MAKING SENSE OF MARX. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Elster, Jon. 1986. “The Market and the Forum.” In FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIAL CHOICE THEORY, eds. J. Elster and A. Hylland. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Elster, Jon. 1993. “Introduction.” n CONSTITUTIONALISM AND DEMOCRACY, eds. J. Elster and R. Slagstad. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Elster, Jon. 1998. “Deliberation and Constitution Making.” In DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY, ed. J. Elster. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Ely, John Hart. 1980. DEMOCRACY AND DISTRUST: A THEORY OF JUDICIAL REVIEW. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Estlund, David. 2009. DEMOCRATIC AUTHORITY: A PHILOSOPHICAL FRAMEWORK. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Kalven, Harry and Hans Zeisel. 1971. THE AMERICAN JURY. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Knight, Jack and James Johnson. 2011. THE PRIORITY OF DEMOCRACY: POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES OF PRAGMATISM. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Landemore, Hélène. 2012. DEMOCRATIC REASON: POLITICS, COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE, AND [*537] THE RULE OF THE MANY. Princeton: Princeton University of Press.



Waldron, Jeremy. 2006. “The Core Case Against Judicial Review.” THE YALE LAW JOURNAL 115:1346-1406.


BATSON V. KENTUCKY, 476 U.S. 79 (1986).


© Copyright 2014 by the author, Patrick Peel.


Vol. 24 No. 11 (November 2014) pp. 533-536

THE GOOD LAWYER: SEEKING QUALITY IN THE PRACTICE OF LAW, by Douglas O. Linder and Nancy Levit. New York: Oxford University Press. 2014. 330pp. Hardcover $24.95. ISBN: 9780199360239.

Reviewed by Suzanne Dennis Borland, Department of Legal Studies, University of Illinois at Springfield. Email: sborl2@uis.edu.

Since attorneys in popular media are often portrayed as money-hungry, unethical, selfish creatures, one might wonder whether there is such a thing as a “good lawyer.” In THE GOOD LAWYER: SEEKING QUALITY IN THE PRACTICE OF LAW law professors Douglas O. Linder and Nancy Levit persuasively argue that good lawyers do indeed exist, and that they achieve quality in their legal practices by possessing and developing certain traits and skills. By skillfully entwining historical and contemporary (as well as fictional and real-life) examples of lawyering with applicable findings of recent social science research, the authors have created an engaging book which should encourage and inspire lawyers everywhere to strive for quality in their work.

THE GOOD LAWYER follows from the authors’ 2010 work THE HAPPY LAWYER: MAKING A GOOD LIFE IN THE LAW. During research interviews for their initial book they discovered a strong link between happiness/career satisfaction and doing meaningful work. In attempting to illuminate what “good work” looks like they discovered that it is admittedly a lofty goal, which much be continuously aspired to. Lawyers may be predisposed to some of the values and skills that make achieving quality in the practice of law easier, but these important qualities can also be developed through insightfulness and intentionality.

Of all the ideals manifested by the proverbial “good lawyer,” empathy, in the authors’ opinion, reigns supreme. In discussing the importance of empathy, Atticus Finch, the legendary trial attorney created by Harper Lee in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, is quoted: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” Empathy is paramount, as it enables an attorney to understand her clients’ interests, tell her clients’ stories in a more powerful way, and gain her clients’ appreciation for leaving them feeling valued (p. 2); empathy also reduces miscommunication between lawyers and clients (p. 16). Indeed, renowned litigator Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College, located at Thunderhead Ranch in Wyoming, focuses on the importance of storytelling, which, to maximize its effectiveness, requires an empathic storyteller (pp. 2-11).

Since about 90% of empathy levels are culturally, as opposed to genetically, determined (p. 13), the authors provide a helpful list of suggestions about how to improve one’s empathic abilities (p. 17). However, they also caution that too much empathy can impede a lawyer’s ability to serve his client, citing William Kunstler’s empathetic and impassioned, yet ultimately ineffective, representation of the “Chicago 8” accused of inciting [*533] riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention (p. 25). Good lawyers know how much to empathize and when they need to detach to maintain a professional distance; this idea, that balance is the key to ensuring a quality life in the law, surfaces throughout the book.

Other personality traits possessed by “good lawyers” are courage, integrity, realism, a strong sense of justice, clarity of purpose, and an ability to transcend emotionalism. As with the section on empathy, these characteristics are skillfully illuminated by references to cutting-edge research and case studies of lawyers who exhibited those desirable qualities. For example, studies evidencing that attorneys, like many professionals, hold an unwarranted overly confident bias toward optimism in their ability to predict case outcomes (pp. 159-164) were compelling. Similarly, the narrative about attorney John Michael Doar, who championed civil rights by, inter alia, guarding James Meredith during his first night in a dormitory on the University of Mississippi campus, prosecuting Ku Klux Klan members (despite death threats) in the “Mississippi Burning” trial, and single-handedly attempting to calm angry protesters following the assassination of Medgar Evers (pp. 39-47), provided undeniable support for the authors’ contention that courage is an important virtue for “good lawyers” to possess.

Good lawyers also have willpower, value others in the legal community, are persuasive, and utilize both intuition and deliberative thinking. The book’s discussion of those first two qualities capitalized on the opportunity to discuss a couple of societal problems often attributed on a proportionally higher basis to the legal profession: addiction and a lack of civility. While the authors are to be applauded for acknowledging the exceptionally high rates of drug abuse and alcoholism among lawyers due to the intense pressures of law practice (p. 95), their proposed solution to those problems is a bit trite; anyone who has suffered from an addiction likely recognizes that “[s]imply believing that you have the ability to resist impulses … and building a solid support network” (pp. 95-96) are unlikely to ensure recovery. On the topic of incivility, a bit too much time seemed devoted to persuading the reader that Democrats and Republicans really can be friends (pp. 114-121), while this reader would have appreciated a more in-depth discussion about why today’s legal community is generally regarded as lacking civility more than in generations past and what individual lawyers can do to turn that tide.

Perhaps the most interesting theme suggested throughout the book is that America’s legal education system runs contrary to the development of the skills and values required by “good lawyers.” Indeed, on the front end, the traditional law school admissions model primarily rewards logical thinking skills by prioritizing an applicant’s success on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) (p. 20). If admissions committees placed less weight on LSAT scores and more on indicators of emotional intelligence (pp. 20-21) it might lead to different types of students being admitted to law school.

However, the admissions process is most certainly not the only “problem” in legal education. Professor Ian Gallacher, Syracuse University College of Law, [*534] identifies the oxymoron: law schools strive to produce graduates who think like lawyers, making it difficult if not impossible for them to think like and communicate with their clients, who are not lawyers (p. 23). Indeed, Gerry Spence complains that law students “are trained to deny their emotions and humanness,” yet they’ll be “called upon to represent human beings who are emotional” (p. 23).

Professor Kristin B. Gerdy, director of the Advocacy Program at Brigham Young University, has proposed one solution to the problem of new lawyers lacking empathy. She advocates for law schools to offer students a more client-centered education, in lieu of the traditional curriculum focusing on the legal doctrine espoused by appellate court cases (p. 21). Her argument is that utilizing small group discussions, client interaction, casebooks that personalize parties’ stories, and self-reflective writing opportunities early in a student’s legal education would result in lawyers who have cultivated empathy and related virtues (pp. 22-23).

This comprehensive approach to changing our legal education model would likely also enable law students to develop many of the other “soft skills” that THE GOOD LAWYER convincingly contends attorneys need to achieve quality in their legal practices. For example, a “growth” mindset (valuing and learning from experiences despite their outcomes, in appreciation that abilities can be improved) is preferred over a “fixed” mindset (which espouses that one’s abilities are predetermined and unchangeable) (pp. 76-80), as the former enables greater willpower. The more determined lawyer will be able to survive and even learn from her mistakes, instead of criticizing her self-worth and abilities because of them. This is important, as lack of willpower often leads to devastating emotional traps (anxiety, boredom, impatience and addiction) (pp. 89-96).

Regrettably, the authors correctly identify law schools’ anticipated responses to the idea of teaching students how to develop their soft skills. “Imagine the objections that a proposal to teach courage or (fill in your favorite virtue here) would prompt from faculty members. They will harrumph about courage not being teachable, complain that the subject is hopelessly squishy and belongs in the Philosophy Department, question its relation to the practice, and worry about how the decision to offer such a course would be viewed by alumni or colleagues in other law schools. Then there’s the personal cost to the teacher. Teaching about courage hardly seems to be the first rung on the ladder to a tenured position at Harvard” (p. 56).

Although I am unconvinced that legal academia will heed the astute wisdom contained in THE GOOD LAWYER, it is indeed courageous that Linder and Levit started the conversation about seeking quality in the practice of law. Last year’s CareerBliss.com’s List of Top 10 Happiest and Unhappiest Jobs (based on more than 65,000 employee reviews from 2012) ranked “Associate Attorney” as the #1 Unhappiest Job. If happiness in one’s legal career is directly related to achieving helpful outcomes in meaningful cases, law schools need to focus on helping their students accomplish just that. The American Bar Association Task Force on the Future of [*535] Legal Education’s Final Report (2014) encourages law schools to utilize innovative ways to prepare their students to practice law, including a shift away from traditional doctrinal education. Perhaps this is the time to make law school not only a better value, but also, by considering how it might integrate the development of skills and virtues discussed in this book, a more effective preparation for its students to embark upon satisfying, quality legal careers, thus becoming “good lawyers.”


“The Happiest and Unhappiest Jobs,” http://www.forbes.com/pictures/efkk45ehffl/the-happiest-and-unhappiest-jobs/

American Bar Association Task Force on the Future of Legal Education Final Report and Recommendations.

© Copyright 2014 by the author, Suzanne Dennis Borland.


Vol. 24 No. 11 (November 2014) pp. 530-532

HUMAN RIGHTS & DISABILITY ADVOCACY, by Maya Sabetello and Marianna Schulze (eds). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2014. 320pp. Cloth $59.95 £39.00. ISBN: 978-0-8122-4547-9.

Reviewed by Christopher A. Riddle, Department of Philosophy and Applied Ethics Institute, Utica College, NY. E-mail: cariddle@utica.edu.

HUMAN RIGHTS & DISABILITY ADVOCACY is a collection of original, analytical and explanatory essays that explore the nuances of the articles that make up the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). As Sabetello and Schulze powerfully highlight, this “eighth UN ‘core’ human rights treaty marks a shift that elevates persons with disabilities from being remarkably invisible within human rights discourse to being protected by a multilateral treaty that frames all human rights as accessible and inclusive” (pp. 1-2).

The thought that people with disabilities exist outside of the scope of justice is a deeply entrenched belief and one that the CRPD challenges directly. People with disabilities live across cultures and classes and can no longer be viewed as inferior, irrelevant, or as Sabetello and Schulze suggest, as being an invisible group of people. As I have highlighted in DISABILITY AND JUSTICE, “the 2011 World Report on Disability, released by the World Health Organization, estimates that more than one billion people in the world (approximately 15 percent of our population) live with a disability and that nearly 200 million of these people experience difficulties in functioning” (Riddle 2014, p. 2). This startling statement reveals just how important the CRPD was and continues to be. As Don MacKay remarks in the foreward: “[a]ttitudes need to change in society and in governments. Our world needs to better accommodate diversity, and our societies need to be much more inclusive and accessible. Persons with disabilities need to be more empowered. This is what the Convention seeks to achieve…” (p. xiii).

It perhaps comes as no surprise then that I stress the importance of this contribution to the literature. To have a collection of individuals such as the authors in HUMAN RIGHTS & DISABILITY ADVOCACY – the people who created the foundation of the CRPD’s contents – be able to tell the story of how the Convention was created and negotiated is at once both incredibly interesting and important as a collection of essays that advances knowledge in the area of disability rights. Sabetello and Schulze have done an admirable job in gathering the essays that comprise HUMAN RIGHTS & DISABILITY ADVOCACY.

By focusing on questions associated with activists and how well their ideals were translated into policy, the reader gains insight into what strategies were successful, which failed, and what potential alternatives might have been endorsed. In addition to the wonderful retrospective insights gained, numerous chapters look forward to explore how disability rights activists might continue to encourage the implementation of the Convention. It is perhaps here where HUMAN RIGHTS & DISABILITY ADVOCACY shines brightest. While the nuanced examinations of the CRPD through the variety of lenses put forth adds incredible insight into the creation of the Convention, it is the discussions by Schulze, and Byrnes that close out the collection that add tremendous insight into how we can [*530] continue to monitor the Convention and involve other human rights institutions in its implementation.

With that in mind, Sabetello and Schulze organized the book with two explicit goals in mind. As they indicate, “the chapters are intended to demonstrate diversity in the kinds of NGOs and civil society representatives involved in the process” (p. 11). This was undeniably achieved and leads to an incredibly rich reading experience. As Sabetello and Schulze rightly highlight, “[a]dvocates for similar substantive issues…advocate in different ways depending on their organization’s size and geographical scope of action” (p. 11).

The second organizational goal involved the essays moving from “more specific issues to overarching themes: from the crucial issue of legal capacity to inclusion, to some groups who tend to be more vulnerable and whose extent of success in incorporating their interests in the Convention varies…” (p. 11). I fear this aspect of the design was less successful and transitions were often muddy. It is admirable how much ground the book covers, but as such, transitions need to be made clear and it is likely that most readers will be unfamiliar with all topics explored and thus, be unlikely to pick up on subtle topic changes and nuanced segues. In this sense, the admirable fluid nature of the chapters complicates things for those with a less than thorough grasp on the articles of the Convention or the topics being addressed within them.

That said, the book begins with Sabatello familiarizing readers with the history of the international disability rights movement. This is done skillfully and as the CRPD emerged as a result of a paradigm shift in the way disability was conceptualized, such an introduction was both insightful and simply put, necessary. That said, the brevity with which this transition to the social model of thinking was treated might limit accessibility to newcomers which is a tremendous shame as the contents of the book prompts an interest from not only those familiar with the origins and shaping of the CRPD, but to those new to it as well. Of course, Oliver and Barnes are mentioned as some of the leading thinkers that conceptualized the British social model, prompting a shift away from medical or individual pathological approaches to disabilities.

Unfortunately, little is said of the important tension now existing between social model proponents and people like Shakespeare (2006) who believes that while impairment may not be a sufficient cause of the injustice faced by people with disabilities, they nonetheless, are necessary (p. 34). In other words, there is no discussion of the tension between social model advocates and so-called interactional theorists who believe, as I have stated elsewhere, that “disability ought to be regarded as a complex interaction between the traits inherent to a person (or one’s impairment), and how these traits manifest themselves in the environment they find themselves in (the disabling facts of one’s impairment)” (Riddle 2014, p. 15). This is important not only for historical purposes or for purposes concerning the application of the Convention moving forward, but because of how this interactional model is intimately tied to other important international documents like the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) that moves beyond looking solely at medical or biological functioning as a determinant of disability, to how the environment and other contextual factors address impairment. This moves beyond a strict medical or social model of disability into the realm of interactional approaches. A failure to discuss this tension [*531] and documents like the ICF leaves the Convention to work in isolation, rather than in conjunction with other ideals.

This criticism might seem somewhat churlish in light of all that Sabatello and Schulze have done with HUMAN RIGHTS AND DISABILITY ADVOCACY and perhaps it is. It is a minor criticism and care must be taken to not overstate it. Indeed, many under-represented and varied perspectives are put forth and the book is an excellent one at least in part, because of this. Most notably of which are perhaps Hickey’s thoughtful discussion of Indigenous people with disabilities, and Toledo’s discussion of the global south. While Toledo presents the fascinating perspective of a member “of a small, national DPO based in Chile” (p. 170), Hickey discussed the “marginalized of the marginalized,” focusing on indigenous people who often represent some of the most disadvantaged, impoverished, and powerless individuals in society, prior to factoring in the further effects of disability (p. 158).

In short, HUMAN RIGHTS & DISABILITY ADVOCACY is an excellent book with broad appeal to policy makers, medical professionals and caregivers, legal professionals, and disability rights advocates or disability scholars more generally. It is hard to recommend this book to those completely unfamiliar with the debate as they may very well get lost without a more solid roadmap and conceptual primer being provided to them. That said, the variety of perspectives provided in the text leave me to wonder who would not benefit from, or have interest in, at least some of this collection. HUMAN RIGHTS & DISABILITY ADVOCACY is skillfully crafted, carefully blending the conceptual with the historical and political, all the while never losing sight of what is most important: the rights and experiences of people with disabilities.


Riddle, Christopher A. 2014. DISABILITY AND JUSTICE: THE CAPABILITIES APPROACH IN PRACTICE. Lexington: Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield.

Shakespeare, Tom. 2006. DISABILITY RIGHTS AND WRONGS. New York: Routledge.

World Health Organization. 2001. INTERNATIONAL CLASSIFICATION OF FUNCTIONING, DISABILITY, AND HEALTH. Geneva: World Health Organization.

© Copyright 2014 by the author, Christopher A. Riddle.


Vol. 24 No. 11 (November 2014) pp. 524-529

THE GLOBALIZATION OF SUPERMAX PRISONS, by Jeffrey Ian Ross (ed). (Foreword by Loїc Wacquant) New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: The State University – Rutgers University Press, 2013. Hardcover ISBN: 9780813557410. Paperback ISBN 9780813557403.

Reviewed by Meera Lalla, LLM Candidate, University of Witwatersrand, and Candidate Attorney, Wits Law Clinic (South Africa).

THE GLOBALIZATION OF SUPERMAX PRISONS is the missing puzzle piece in the encrypted and often unspoken portrayal of the global realities of the developmental intricacies and constituencies of supermax prisons. Jeffrey Ian Ross, a renowned expert in the field of corrections, policing, political crime, and criminology has always had an analytical take on the issue of supermax prisons. In the 2007 article that appears to be a blueprint for his book, Ross states: “The academic treatments (journal articles or chapters in scholarly books) fall into three groups: general overviews, those that focus on the individuals that are sent to solitary confinement or Supermax prisons, and those that focus on the effects of Supermax prisons” (Ross 2007, p. 61). Thus after many years of in depth research and deliberation with experts in the field of supermax prisons, this book aims to fill the gap and answer some questions that were previously left to speculation.

THE GLOBALIZATION OF SUPERMAX PRISONS, through criminological and penological consideration of the history of supermax prisons, presents readers with an analytical overview of supermax prisons from their inception to the present days. Ross demonstrates, in thirteen chapters the pollination of the concept of supermax prisons from America to nine other countries, where Supermax prisons now stand blossoming and firmly rooted. The Foreword, written by Loїc Wacquant, introduces the topic and the chapters that follow. Wacquant (p. x) relates how supermax prisons have their origins as an American “Peculiar institution” during the 1980’s; due to an escalation in the number of inmates admitted to prisons, prison administration decided to separate the “worst of the worst inmates.” Inmates were classified as such due to dangerous or threatening behavior, and the clear and present threat that they posed to the prison population and wardens. Wacquant (p. x) describes the reasoning as a ‘“no-nonsense” approach, designed to tame recalcitrant and predatory prisoners through intensified isolation. Throughout the book, it is clear that the issue of rehabilitation of prisoners has little place in these concrete fortresses. The book has a clear goal: “to contribute to our understanding of the internal and external politics of punishment in contemporary society” (Loїc Wacquant, 2013 p. xi).

The chosen chapter authors are experts in the field of penology, well versed and well traveled, and their research is sound. The reader can learn more about each author towards the end of the book, where a brief description and their credentials are laid out. One of the authors, Greg Newbold, is a former maximum-security inmate himself, having served a seven and a half year prison sentence for drug trafficking during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Newbold thus provides more than thirty years of experience into the inner workings of the penal system of New Zealand. As a professor of Sociology at the University of Canterbury, he can attest accurately to the legitimacy of the penal revolution in his country (p. 218). The amalgamation of the nine authors’ perspectives provides a good reflection of [*524] facts, and the comparisons contribute to the credibility and importance of the subject of supermax prisons globally.

It bears noting that it would be highly beneficial to the reader to include a list or index of terminology and acronyms. Overlapping concepts in each country have different definitions and should rather be tailored in an index of terminology. This book has failed to adopt the list approach and provides elucidation at the inception of each chapter.

The concept of the supermax prison is uniquely realized in each country studied, as it is influenced by traditions, legislation, criminal activities and the question of necessity. Owing to the very broad interpretation of this definition, numerous other names and practices are adopted in specific countries. The countries’ manifestation, historical development, reasons institution and current practices regarding supermax security are analyzed, compared and contrasted to characterize the globalization of supermax prisons. Various questions are raised in the scope of the debate. Ten chapters “examine specific countries’ attempts to develop supermax prisons and two chapters explore the US experience in the establishment of the high-security prisons in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, and at Guantánamo, Cuba. A conclusion “integrates the diverse threads of scholarship presented in this book and makes suggestions for future research and policy in this area” (p. 9).

While the threads of research are diverse, each case study is united by their attempts to answer the following research questions: “(1) What kind of support or opposition to the building of such a facility occurred, and if the opposition failed, why did it not succeed? (2) To what extent was the decision to build a supermax influenced by developments in the United States? (3) Has any controversy surrounding the building of a supermax continued after its construction?” (p. 2). In answering these questions, each author has designed their chapters symmetrically insofar as methodology is concerned, and engage with similar subjects: a historical background of the country’s prison regime, characterizing the prisons that were in place, the events that led to their downfall and replacement by supermax prisions ‒ the development of new technologically advanced prisons, the reasons for building and sustaining supermax prisons, categories of prisoners, description of cells and prison conditions, criteria for entry and exit of supermax prisons, hierarchy of management, effects on prisoners, country-specific extenuating circumstances (race, religion, politics and terrorism), public opinion and human rights criticisms, statistics, comparisons, influences and concluding remarks for the continued existence of supermax prisons. The methodology is suitable to the book’s scope and offers the reader insight into differences between countries' varied versions of the supermax prison. Behind each cell of every chosen country a historical picture is painted to justify the means and ends of the implementation and sustainable development of supermax prisons. This organization means both that each chapter may stand on its own, and they are easy to compare, but at times the book’s key aspects become repetitious, and their overemphasis in each chapter contributes to an anticlimactic conclusion (p. 177). Perhaps if specific issues were honed in on and combined into their own chapters, utilizing a diagram or table to compare and contrast the globalization of supermax prisons, the pollination of the American concept of supermax prisons would be more apparent to the reader.

The book's intended audience, according to Ross, includes legislators, correctional [*525] service personnel, university lecturers and students, criminologists, lawyers, sociologists and even politicians (p. 9). It should suitably serve these readers. That said the book would likely be most useful to a researcher, or any person who has an analytical sense of judgment in this field. It would be more appropriate for a lay audience if it included an annotated alphabetical index of subject matter to allow readers the opportunity to peruse through specific topic areas and to allow scholars to easily reference and provide correct citations for the book. While overall the book is well organized and written with acceptable style and tone, at times, the specific countries' jargon and colloquialisms might daunt readers, forcing them to either concentrate acutely, or face the task of frequently turning back pages to clarify definitions.

Turning to the subject material of the book, it is safe to conclude that there is a palette of colorful topics which intermingle to create an array of unique questions in the mind of the reader. Such topics include “globalization, power, politics, and economics on the decisions to construct and operate supermax prisons in democratic societies and the implications of US policies and practices on two correctional facilities US personnel have run outside of the United States” (p. 9). With the singular focus of the book being supermax prisons, Ross has not ventured off on tangents to explore other major debates concerning restorative justice, remanding detainees, and supermax prisons for women, for example (pp. 17, 32, 61, 71, 76). While each author fulfills Ross’ directives for this book, they have also displayed their ingenious ability to grapple with the extensive literature that exists on this topic (which is sourced on pp. 183-216). Their extensive research crosses borders and serves as a stepping-stone from which to address the issues surrounding supermax prisons.

While no review can accurately depict all of these issues and debates, I will now proceed to analyze briefly the holistic content of the book and highlight some of the many controversial issues raised. From its description of American prisons, the epicenter of all comparisons made in the book, it is clear that since the beginning of the concept of incarceration, solitary confinement and the use of administrative segregation was the fuel of the prison experience (p. 11). Many innovative methods of torture and punishment dated back to the colonial period, wherein “[colonists] viewed the deviant as willful, a sinner, and a captive of the devil” (p. 11). This conception was exacerbated by early-American communities, which used heinous and public forms of punishment such as whippings, hangings, banishment and brandings to maintain control (pp. 11-12). The practice of subjecting inmates to solitary confinement began in Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Jail – the first US jail to have single cells ‒ ostensibly to allow inmates the opportunity to silently reflect on their so-called sins (p. 12).

In the first three chapters, Ross marks milestones in the development of the supermax prison. The reasons for building supermax prisons emerge as he colourfully describes escape ‘war-stories,’ and the implementation of the psychological “them-and-us approach” of correctional officers. Ross deftly paints a picture of a supermax prison cell, emphasizing prison conditions and the infamous twenty-three hour lockdown practice (pp. 13-16). Extraordinary similarities and differences emerge from the chapters. One such example is that criteria for the admission into supermax prisons are not codified in black and white. Admissions are generally made arbitrarily, a definite infringement upon prisoners’ rights (p. 14). Indeed, it appears from the book that there are no [*526] concrete statistics that indicate the exact number of supermax prisoners. However, Ross and his colleagues provide estimates, tables, graphs and what metrics are available throughout the book where applicable (pp. 70, 71, 82, 83, 86, 140). The growing number of supermax prisoners denote the necessity for further research and insight into supermax prisons (p. 14).

Prisoner rights to basic food, privacy, reading material, education and religion are severely curtailed (pp. 16-17). The natural impact of these harsh conditions surface in the mental health of supermax prisoners. Many inmates develop psychological disorders, which are not treated and may eventually lead to suicide (p. 17). The book highlights that general public support, lucrative industrialization of prisons, criminal justice, careerism for correctional officials, and federal governments' involvement are all contributing factors to the creation of supermax prisons. However, the prisoners at ground level know that the real reason for the institution of supermax prisons is punitive and not rehabilitative (pp. 21-23). In the square domain of human rights violations, supermax prisoners’ rights are non-existent. Human Rights Watch and other organizations are questioning these practices' morality and legality, both nationally and internationally. The Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, and international treaties such as the European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights advocate the protection of prisoners’ rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (to which United States is a signatory) clearly prohibits “torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment” (p. 18). As such, is there a justifiable limitation for the violation of supermax prisoners’ rights? These questions and others are addressed in the country-specific chapters.

Though all of the chapters were similar in their content and approach, I found specific chapters to be more intriguing than others. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on the Mexican and South African models, as the authors' style was captivating, and the models they discussed were strongly shaped by cultural heritage and traditions (pp. 35-48, 80-94).

Patrick O’ Day and Thomas O’Connor sketched a very thought- provoking description of supermax prisons in Mexico. They pose an argument that the inverse of Mexicanization could have proliferated instead of Americanization (p. 35). Mexico's unique cultural and political environment shape the prison regime, as evidenced by an in-depth portrayal of a high-security prison situated on the island Islas Marías. This prison held political prisoners and implemented a forced labour regimen (pp. 36-37). Rebels were smuggled onto the island and placed in special cells where the high tide would flood almost up to the ceiling. This torture mechanism was used to procure confessions from the inmates – to crimes both real and imaginary. Execution then occurred, far from public scrutiny. Through these methods, the state created supermax prisons to counteract terrorism and rebels free from public scrutiny (p. 38).

Other unusual practices are revealed in the Mexican model, which are decidedly unique. For example it was not uncommon for families to join inmates and live on the island, where a ”normal” household could be run, with inmates roaming freely, subject only to three daily roll calls. This model clearly fosters rehabilitation (p. 39). Another odd practice is that of conjugal visitations which form part of a prisoner’s life in Mexico (p. 43). Bribery and corruption are also distinguishing features of prisons of [*527] Mexico; corrupt correctional officers aid escapes and the availability of sex, and guns are often smuggled into cells. Drug cartels are even run within prison walls; drug traffickers, incarcerated at these prisons, often engage in the murder of opposing gang leaders and members (pp. 42-44). It is apparent that while these prisons resemble supermax institutions, the Mexican culture, longstanding customs, and prison traditions have influenced – and in some ways corrupted – the source system. Thus, the chapter gives the reader a sense of how the American model adapts to different social and political environments.

South Africa's history of Apartheid and racial violence and alarming crime rates contributed to the establishment of two supermax prisons (p. 80). In Chapter 7, Fran Buntman and Lukas Muntinghon illustrate the various controversial issues which plague the penal regimes of constitutional democracies. The predicaments that South Africa faces are common ones among constitutional governments – weighing prisoners' rights against the need for security, and attempting genuine rehabilitation in an environment tainted by overcrowding, gangsterism, bribery, and corruption (pp. 83-92).

By its very nature, the concept of a supermax prison is antithetical to that of human rights, and the constitutionality of these institutions is morally questionable on levels above and beyond the International Covenants. This issue has been touched on in the book; however, human rights attorneys who read this work may have severe criticisms leveled against the depth of which the subject is addressed. Each chapter merely skims through the impact of supermax prisons on prisoners’ rights (pp. 17, 18, 34, 47, 63-65, 77-96, 104, 132, 148, 158 181). In this respect the book has remained diplomatic and somewhat neutral in its treatment of the notion of prisoners’ rights in supermax prisons.

The tone of the last two chapters, however, is arguably more intense and involved, as the authors explore the most extreme of supermax prisons. Terrorism, blasphemy and torture are the key characteristics of Guantanamo prisons, according to Dawn L. Rothe in Chapter 12 (pp. 145-159). The brutality revealed in the Abu Ghraib model, as portrayed by Rothe and Ross’s chapter 13, pushes the bounds of human comprehension. It is enough to leave one speechless (pp. 160-176). The books preceding chapters build to this conclusion – that even the American concept of supermax prisons is contaminated in practice by unspeakable abuse. The book leaves one thinking about the repercussions of supermax institutions, as shaped by socioeconomics and politics, on prisoners’ rights.
It is safe to conclude that the problem of dangerous criminals is faced globally, and these nine countries (others include Australia, Brazil, Britain, the Netherlands and New Zealand) evidence the need for the supermax regime. Even so, the need for a balance between the power of prison officials and the rights that prisoners have as enshrined in constitutional and legal tenets, is equally evident. Ross has not come to this determination in his concluding remarks. As noted above, the contributions are largely analytical; while they offer a fine first step in identifying and defining a type of modern mass incarceration, there is on the whole little comparative analysis. In the summation chapter, the conclusions are perfunctory and lack conclusive detail. No doubt this will leave some readers feeling that Ross may have rushed his conclusions, and thereby failed to do justice to the extensive research that his colleagues provided. The conclusion is thus [*528] a disappointing anti-climax to a book that might have provided worthwhile recommendations for the future, given the extent of previous chapters' comparative analysis.

This book illustrates the rise and fall of supermax prisons across countries, and its chapters illuminate the topic as one of concern. However, the reader is ultimately left to draw his or her own conclusions.


Ross Jeffrey Ian. 2007 "Social Science and Public Policy: Supermax Prisons." March/April (2007) Volume 44 (3) SOCIETY 60-64.

© Copyright 2014 by the author, Meera Lalla.