Universally admired, and viewed with great affection, even love, by all who knew him, Harvard law professor Bill Stuntz died in March 2011 at the age of fifty-two, after a long, courageous battle with debilitating back pain and then insurmountable cancer. In a career that deserved to be much longer, Stuntz produced dozens of major articles on criminal law and procedure. He was a leader in carrying forward the work of scholars who had analyzed criminal justice through the lens of economic analysis, and he added his own distinctive dimension by insisting on the importance of political incentives, with their often-perverse effects. Ever the contrarian, Stuntz excelled at challenging conventional wisdom, usually from a counterintuitive direction. He often succeeded in shaking an accepted consensus; even readers who remained skeptical were forced to reexamine their fundamental assumptions about how the criminal justice system works.
The Collapse of American Criminal Justice (“The Collapse”) sums up much of Stuntz’s most important work. It brilliantly describes the deplorable injustices of contemporary criminal justice—most notably our massive levels of incarceration and shockingly disproportionate rates of imprisonment for minorities. And, in keeping with the style for which Stuntz became famous, it proposes startlingly original solutions.