The Case Against Punishment: Retribution, Crime Prevention, and the Law

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NYU Press, 2005 - Law - 219 pages
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What ends do we expect and hope to serve in punishing criminal wrongdoers? Does the punishment of offenders do more harm than good for American society? In The Case against Punishment, Deirdre Golash addresses these and other questions about the value of punishment in contemporary society.

Drawing on both empirical evidence and philosophical literature, this book argues that the harm done by punishing criminal offenders is ultimately morally unjustified. Asserting that punishment inflicts both intended and unintended harms on offenders, Golash suggests that crime can be reduced by addressing social problems correlated with high crime rates, such as income inequality and local social disorganization. Punishment may reduce crime, but in so doing, causes a comparable amount of harm to offenders. Instead, Golash suggests, we should address criminal acts through trial, conviction, and compensation to the victim, while also providing the criminal with the opportunity to reconcile with society through morally good action rather than punishment.


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The case against punishment: retribution, crime prevention, and the law

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Golash (law, American Univ.;The Bail Reform Act of 1984 ) takes the provocative stance that punishment is not only useless but immoral and indefensible, regardless of one's philosophical bent. She ... Read full review


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Page 11 - Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth : 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil : but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Page 11 - Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy : 44. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you ; 45.
Page 7 - this is no time for giving quarter. Has, then, your house fared so well at the hands of the Trojans? Let us not spare a single one of them — not even the child unborn and in its mother's womb; let not a man of them be left alive, but let all in Ilius perish, unheeded and forgotten.
Page 15 - Judicial punishment can never be used merely as a means to promote some other good for the criminal himself or for civil society, but instead it must in all cases be imposed on him only on the ground that he has committed a crime; for a human being may never be manipulated merely as a means to the purposes of someone else.
Page 13 - Each transgression may be punished to that degree, and with so much severity, as will suffice to make it an ill bargain to the offender, give him cause to repent, and terrify others from doing the like.
Page 10 - So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are; for blood, it polluteth the land; and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.
Page 14 - But all punishment is mischief: all punishment in itself is evil. Upon the principle of utility, if it ought at all to be admitted, it ought only to be admitted in as far as it promises to exclude some greater evil.
Page 16 - Can we for a moment hesitate to decide, that if some of those men whom the laws, dispensed by the...

About the author (2005)

Deirdre Golash is associate professor in the Department of Justice, Law, and Society at American University in Washington, DC.

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