Theory and Application of Roscoe Pound’s Sociological Jurisprudence: Crime Prevention or Control?

The current interest in reforming the administration of justice has been triggered by a number of factors including the 1967 report of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice and the treatment afforded arrestees during the civil disorders of the past few years. The nation is alarmed at the reported annual increases in crime, and this alarm was manifested in the 1968 presidential election when “law and order” became a major issue. Superficially the answer may seem clear: more effective enforcement of the law and, when necessary, more stringent laws. The critical issue, however, is a jurisprudential-philosophical one: ought the “proper” approach to crime essentially be its prevention through methods such as the rehabilitation of criminal offenders, or its control through efficient administrative procedures? This is not a new question in jurisprudence, but it remains an important and unresolved one. This article will examine an analytical approach to this problem which was developed and applied by Roscoe Pound, one of America’s most eminent jurists. After describing and interpreting Pound’s concept of sociological jurisprudence, we will relate it generally to the reform of criminal justice administration and analyze Pound’s attempt to apply his theory as -Director of the Cleveland Crime Survey of 1921. Finally, we will compare the recommendations of that Cleveland study and the recent report of the President’s Commission in a modest effort to assess their impact on the administration of criminal justice and to draw some lessons for future reform endeavors.