Document Type

Article - On Campus Only

Publication Date



This chapter describes the development of public policy regarding the control of individual behavior in the criminal justice system, or alternative programs outside the criminal justice system. We focus on developments in the United States, primarily in the late twentieth century and later. We identify instances of both expansion/escalation and contraction/deescalation of control and indicate how the latter may be a consequence of and partial solution to the human and economic burdens of the former. We also examine the diffusion of philosophies and practices between institutional sectors of social control (criminal justice, mental health, education) and the shifting of responsibility for control between state and local government, again in response to the human and economic burdens of the preexisting control strategies. Finally, we offer reflections on possible future developments of the trends we have identified.

Recommended Citation

Burns, Stacy and Mark Peyrot. 2018. “Public Policy and Social Problems: Recent Trends in the Formal Control of Individual Behavior," pp. 57-76 in The Cambridge Handbook of Social Problems, edited by Javier Trevino, Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press. 2018.