This essay explores the role that U.S. criminal courts play in shaping the uniquely punitive social order of the United States. U.S. courts have long been defined against the common law of England, from which they emerged. In this essay, I consider the English legacy and suggest that while the United States does draw heavily from common-law traditions, it has also innovated to alter them, a process that has established a criminal justice system even more punitive than that of England.

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