Skepticism and Sanction: The Benefits of Rejecting Moral Responsibility
It is sometimes objected that we cannot adopt skepticism about moral responsibility, because the criminal justice system plays an indispensable social function. In this paper, I examine the implications of moral responsibility skepticism for the punishment of those convicted of crime, with special attention to recent arguments by Saul Smilansky. Smilansky claims that the skeptic is committed to fully compensating the incarcerated for their detention, and that this compensation would both be too costly to be practical and would remove the deterrent function from incarceration. I argue that the skeptic is not committed to full compensation of the offender, and that the costs of such compensation would in any case be far smaller than Smilansky thinks. In fact, I claim, the costs of the criminal justice system to which the skeptic is committed might be very much lower than the costs – economic, social and moral – we currently pay as a consequence of our system of punishment.
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Brown v Plata, ‘Supreme Court of the United States’ (2011): No. 09-1233.Google Scholar
- Butler, Tony and Allnutt, Stephen, Mental Illness Among New South Wales Prisoners (NSW Corrections Health Service, 2003). http://www.justicehealth.nsw.gov.au/publications/Mental_Illness_Among_NSW_Prisoners_2003.pdf. Accessed 17 Aug 2011.
- CASA (The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University), Behind Bars II: Substance Abuse and America’s Prison Population (2010). http://www.casacolumbia.org/download.aspx?path=/UploadedFiles/tw0t55j5.pdf. Accessed 17 Aug 2011.
- Coid, Jeremy W., ‘The Management of Dangerous Psychopaths in Prison’. In Millon, T. and Birket-Smith, M. (eds.), Psychopathy: Antisocial, Criminal, and Violent Behavior (New York: Guilford Press, 1998), pp. 431–547.Google Scholar
- David. M. Kennedy, Deterrence and Crime Prevention: Reconsidering the prospect of sanction (London: Routledge, 2008).Google Scholar
- Kleiman, Mark, When Brute Force Fails (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009)Google Scholar
- Langan, Patrick A., and Levin, David J., ‘Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994’. Bureau of Justice Statistics (2002). http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/rpr94.pdf. Accessed 4 Jan 2012.
- Neil Levy, “Psychopathy, Responsibility and the Moral/Conventional Distinction”, in L. Malatesti and J. McMillan (eds.) Responsibility and Psychopathy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 213-226.Google Scholar
- Derk Pereboom, “Meaning in Life Without Free Will”, Philosophic Exchange 33 (2002): 19-34.Google Scholar
- Pizarro, Jesenia M., Stenius, Vanja M. K., and Pratt, Travis C., ‘Supermax Prisons: Myths, Realities, and the Politics of Punishment in American Society’, Criminal Justice Policy Review 17 (2006): 6–21Google Scholar
- T.M. Scanlon, Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008).Google Scholar
- Randall G. Shelden and William B. Brown, Criminal Justice in America: A Critical View (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).Google Scholar
- Turbyfill, Diane, ‘Bank Robber Planned Crime and Punishment’. Gaston Gazette June 16 2011. http://www.gastongazette.com/news/bank-58397-richard-hailed.html. Accessed 11 Jan 2012.
- Jan van Dijk, John van Kesteren and Paul Smit, Criminal Victimisation in International Perspective, Key findings from the 2004-2005 ICVS and EU ICS (The Hague, Boom Legal Publishers, 2008).Google Scholar
- Vilhauer, Benjamin, ‘Persons, Punishment, and Free Will Skepticism’ Philosophical Studies. doi:10.1007/s11098-011-9752-z.
- Franklin E. Zimring, The Great American Crime Decline (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).Google Scholar