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STANFORD -- Crime and Punishment in American History, the latest book by Lawrence Friedman, the Marion Rice Kirkwood Professor at the Stanford Law School, has earned a Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association.
The award, which was announced July 8 and will be presented Aug. 9, goes to the publisher, BasicBooks, a division of HarperCollins.
The Silver Gavel is the highest award given by the ABA in its annual media awards program. The awards recognize "outstanding contributions to greater public understanding of the American legal system by the media."
Friedman is known for his ability to communicate his scholarly findings to the general public. Crime and Punishment in American History was a finalist for the 1994 Pulitzer Prize in history and received an extended review in the Sept. 26, 1993, New York Times Book Review.
"A major achievement," Times reviewer Yale Kamisar said of the book. "The author has an astonishing fund of knowledge. . . . And he is a gifted writer."
The 577-page volume, released late in 1993, explores the changes from colonial days to the present in our nation's views and laws concerning criminal behavior, and relates these changes to developments in the larger culture.
"It is society that makes the decisions about what is and is not crime," Friedman writes in his introduction. "All crimes are acts that society, or at least some dominant elements in society, sees as threats. . . . The sense of threat, and ideas about what to do about dangers, change prismatically from period to period, and are different in different social groupings."
Examples of behavioral areas where views have changed include narcotics and alcohol, domestic violence, sexual behavior in and out of marriage, abortion and infanticide, and corporal and capital punishment.
"The story told here," Friedman notes, "is not a story of 'progress.' Whether we are better off or worse off than before is for the reader to decide. I myself think we are considerably better off; but at a rather stiff price."
Friedman has been a member of the Stanford faculty since 1968. His research is notably interdisciplinary, and in 1986 he became a professor by courtesy of political science.
His previous books - of which there are more than a dozen - include a winner of the 1976 Triennial Book Award of the Order of the Coif (the national law honor society) and a winner of the 1982 Willard Hurst Prize of the Law and Society Association.
Friedman currently teaches law and society, trusts and estates, and American legal history at the Stanford Law School.
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