Whither the Punitive State?
This chapter surveys the landscape, sums up the findings, and ventures a few guesses about the American present and its contradictory tendencies. Antigay crusades appear to be losing their power to mobilize voters. The long tide of punitive lawmaking also shows signs of abatement. There has been renewed interest in the notion of rehabilitation. While penalties for some drug crimes have become less severe, penalties for violent crimes, second offenses, and crimes committed with a handgun continue to intensify. Policing continues to expand, even in the face of falling crime rates. The sex panics constitute the frontier where the punitive state's line of march seems least obstructed. Many assumptions that undergird the punitive state persist, even in policies that initiate important changes. Tying together institutional and popular thinking about subjects such as life, innocence, and risk, sex panics have fostered new social norms and supplied a reliable and reproducible set of tropes for the production of other panics.
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