Apr 20

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27: APR 20


  • Cavadino, Michael and James Dignan. "Penal policy and political economy". (17)

Small Group Discussion on punishment

  • Recall our theories of punishment from last class. Here are two thought experiments to help you sort out your views on punishment:
  • 1. Imagine you are in the original position in Rawls' theory. You don't know if, when the veil is lifted, you will be a crime victim, criminal, or neither. Moreover, you don't know if you will live in a crime prone area, have good parents, and other factors that affect criminal behavior, like Socio-economic Status (SES). But you do know everything we currently know about the causal factors (both social and individual) that produce crime. Here are three choices you might make. Does one sound better (and maybe objectively more rational?) than the other two? Is there a fourth?
  • A. Contractors would choose a retributive punishment system, much like the current US system.
  • B. Contractors would choose a "public health model".
  • C. Contractors would choose a "dual system" allowing for choice between A and B.
  • Try answering with just two options: A and B.
  • 2. Faculty sometimes talk about how "punitive" the grading systems in our courses need to be. This can pit "grade inflators" vs. "toughies". As with the moral responsibility and punishment issue in the criminal justice system, some faculty (toughies) worry that if they don't give more C, D, and F grades, students will become lazy. They also might believe that a higher level of performance would occur if we put students in fear of failing the course. (!) However, other faculty (grade inflators) have the feeling that many differences in student performance are "baking in" prior to the first day of class and grading is largely "sorting" the same people over and over again. We need to give students good information about their performance, but we don't need to make harsh final judgements. If this is true, praising and blaming students more severely than needed to motivate the work seems undeserved. Grade inflators sometimes acknowledge the "free rider" problems with their view. Do you find yourself agreeing with one group of faculty over the other? How punitive do we need to make a particular process for it to work? What are the variables? Do you have an analysis?

Cavadino, Michael and James Dignan. "Penal policy and political economy"

  • Crime rates by country [1]
  • Homicide rates by country [2]
  • Some data on the board about income tax rates and taxation as % of GDP.
  • Two claims:
  • Diffs in penality likely to continue in spite of globalization
  • One reason for this is that penality tracks political economy. (Sort of like cons/liberal trait in other areas.)
  • Starts with an overview of the influence of the US on global penal policy. To the extent that US exerts influence on other countries to move in a neo-liberal direction there may be "penal convergence". Also, incarcertation systems are one of our global exports! "correctional imperialism"
  • Some elements of the US "justice model" (retributive punishment and retributive deterrence) travel faster than others. "3 strikes" and "zero tolerance"
  • In Europe, the European Convention on Human Rights is influential. Moved Russia away from capital punishment.
  • 441: Table: Typology of political economies and their penal tendencies.
  • Neo-liberal (Example: Us
  • Conservative corporatism (Example: Germany in 2008 recession reinvests in industrial modernization and worker skills.)
  • Social democratic corporatism (more egalitarian and secular)
  • Oriental corporatism (detail from Nick's taxes)
  • Let's review some of the connections the authors make in their discussion. (bring in crime rates)
  • 447: Table: Political economy and imprisonment rates.
  • Is neo-liberalism "criminogenic"?
  • Possibly: Evidence that unequal societies with weak community relationships suffer from worse rates of crime. 447. [Note how this might support a public health / social justice model for (instead of) punishment.]
  • Interesting: Weak link bt crime rates and imprisonment rates.
  • Some possible mechanisms: Neo-liberal societies have high social exclusion: labor market and CJ failures. The authors suggests a "feedback loop" here: the socially excluded confirm the neo-liberal narrative.
  • By contrast, Corporatist and social dem states are inclusionary, have a communitarian ethos. (Think back to "Are you alright?" MRFW News!). "Welfare" can involve locking people up or giving them money.
  • Beckett and Western (2001) and others claim that high welfare spending correlates with low incarceration (except Japan). Also, economic inequality predicts high incarceration rates.