Harsh Justice: The Widening Divide Between America and Europe

May 3, 2016
Jenner & Block, 45th Floor
353 N Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60654
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James Q. WhitmanYale Law School



Free and open to the public

a panel discussion with

James Q. Whitman, Yale University Law School


Hon. Tom Dart,Cook County Sheriff

Hon. Colleen Sheehan, Cook County Circuit Court Judge

Kim Foxx, Former Assistant State’s Attorney, Juvenile Justice Division, and Former Chief of Staff to President of Cook County Board, Toni Preckwinkle

Hon. Ann M. Burke (moderator), Illinois Supreme Court Justice

Cosponsored by The Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago and The John Howard Association

Criminal punishment in America has become harsh and degrading–more so than any other western democracy. Executions and long prison terms are commonplace in America. Countries like France and Germany, by contrast, are systematically mild. European offenders are rarely sent to prison, and when they are, they serve far shorter terms than their American counterparts. Why is America so comparatively harsh? The answer lies in America’s triumphant embrace of a non-hierarchical social system and distrust of state power which have contributed to a law of punishment that is more willing to degrade offenders.

The panelists will discuss how Professor Whitman’s comparison of the European and American systems might highlight and uncover aspects of the criminal justice system in Cook County and Illinois that could be improved.

Event Schedule
4:30-5:00   Registration
5:00-6:30   Event
6:30-7:30   Reception

James Q. Whitman is the Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale Law School. He earned his B.A. and J.D. from Yale University and Law School and also holds an M.A. in European History from Columbia University and a PhD in Intellectual History from the University of Chicago. Professor Whitman’s many articles have been published internationally and across disciplines. He is the author of The Origins of Reasonable Doubt: Theological Roots of the Criminal TrialThe Verdict of Battle: The Law of Victory and the Making of Modern War, and Harsh Justice: Criminal Punishment and the Widening Divide Between America and Europe, which won the 2004 Distinguished Book Award of the Division of International Criminology of the American Society of Criminology.