Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2019

Publication Title

Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law


El Dorado, probation, crime


Rural life, small town life, is not and has never been idyllic. It has always had its share of pathology, sometimes deep pathology. Small town life is not necessarily traditional life, close-knit family life, neighborly life. That kind of life certainly exists; but America was never a traditional society in that sense. Its small towns were full of strangers. The population of El Dorado County, small as it was, had been growing rapidly. Like America in general, El Dorado County had its share of anomie; rootless men (and women), without strong relationships: ships without anchors, driftwood on the sea of society. Most of the defendants had families, but (apparently) not successful families. Life was a steady downward slide. Some defendants, perhaps, would eventually be able to patch together a reasonably successful life. For some, their brush with the law might even have been at least mildly deterrent or therapeutic. Teaching a lesson is, after all, one of the goals of criminal justice. How often this happens is a question these files cannot answer. The chronicles revealed in the files of El Dorado County are on the whole chronicles of wasted lives, chronicles of chronic and dismal failure.