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Criminal Law

University of Michigan Law School

Facts

1972

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How To Use, Abuse—And Fight Back With—Crime Statistics, Yale Kamisar Jan 1972

How To Use, Abuse—And Fight Back With—Crime Statistics, Yale Kamisar

Articles

Statistics have an almost magical appeal in a "fact"-minded culture such as ours, among a people conditioned and accustomed to watch for-and attach great significance to-even the smallest fluctuations in say, the unemployment rate. Hence, as Darrell Huff graphically demonstrated in his famous little book, How to Lie with Statistics (1954), they can be-and have been-manipulated to terrorize or calm, inflate or depreciate, and above all, to sensationalize and over simplify. As Harvard criminologist Lloyd Ohlin noted recently, statistics are especially potent when "they give a sense of solid reality (usually false) to something people vaguely apprehend and when they …