James Wilson completed his B.A. at the University of Redlands in 1952, where he was the national collegiate debate champion in 1951 and 1952. He completed an M.A. (1957) and a Ph.D. (1959) in political science at the University of Chicago. From 1961 to 1987, he was the Shattuck Professor of Government at Harvard University. His 1975 book Thinking About Crime put forward a novel theory of incapacitation as the most effective explanation for the reduction in crime rates observed where longer prison sentences were the norm. Criminals might not be deterred by the threat of longer sentences, but repeat offenders would be prevented from further offending, simply because they would be in jail rather than out on the street.
The broken windows theory was first introduced by social scientists Wilson and George L. Kelling, in an article titled “Broken Windows” and which appeared in the March 1982 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. From 1987 until 1997, he was the James Collins Professor of Management and Public Policy at the UCLA Anderson School of Management at UCLA. From 1998 to 2009, he was the Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy. Wilson’s university text American Government (now coauthored with John J. DiIulio, Jr.) is widely sold. The Amazon Best Sellers Rank of his text was 386,812 on April 19, 2012.
Wilson was a former chairman of the White House Task Force on Crime (1966), of the National Advisory Commission on Drug Abuse Prevention (1972–73) and a member of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Violent Crime (1981), the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (1985–90), and the President’s Council on Bioethics. He was a former president of the American Political Science Association. He served on the board of directors for the New England Electric System (now National Grid USA), Protection One, RAND, and State Farm Mutual Insurance. He was the chairman of the Council of Academic Advisors of the American Enterprise Institute. Wilson was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and a member of the International Council of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation. On March 2, 2012, Wilson died in Boston, Massachusetts from complications due to leukemia.
- May, 27, 1931
- Denver, Colorado
- March, 02, 2012
- Boston, Massachusetts