There is a growing consensus that the criminal justice system in America is in a state of profound crisis: the conventional goals of rehabilitation and deterrence have remained as elusive as ever and criminal activity constitutes a steadily increasing burden On American society. The papers in this collection examine some of the basic assumptions underlying current policies in the criminal justice system and provide an interdisciplinary perspective on the issue of criminal justice. Such prominent scholars as James Q. Wilson, Edward Banfield, Thomas Szasz and Walter Kaufmann have joined together in this volume in a com¬mon quest for a better understanding of the precise dimensions of the problem and of possible alternative approaches. While the individual authors in the collection may not ultimately agree regarding the proper solution to the problems, they do share a common conviction that the debate must begin with a fundamental rethinking of assumptions which, until recently, have generally been accepted without analysis. The title Assessing the Criminal may be interpreted on three separate levels and these levels define the structure of the book: analyzing the concept of the criminal, defining criminal responsibility and evaluating alternative responses to criminal conduct. Each of these levels must be examined in order to understand the concept of criminal justice and the problems raised by conventional approaches in this field. Beneath the confusion which character¬izes existing policies in the criminal justice system, an underlying paradigm has given rise to many of the problems plaguing our justice system that will not be resolved until a new paradigm has been developed. This new paradigm, which is briefly explored in the collection, is based on a conception of individual rights that would provide an explicit standard for the evaluation of competing policy goals.