Policing and Punishment for Profit

Original Paper


This paper examines ethical considerations relating to the current role of financial incentives in policing and punishment in the USA, focusing on the two methods of punishment most popular in the USA: (1) fines and forfeitures and (2) incarceration. It examines how financial incentives motivate much of our penal system, including how and when laws are enforced; discusses relevant ethical considerations and concerns connected with our current practices; proposes a theoretical solution for addressing these problems that involves realigning existing incentives to better serve the interests of justice; and considers how that theoretical solution can be applied in practice. While there are no easy solutions to resolving many of the current ethical problems related to policing and punishment, this paper will argue that some of our current practices, practices that many people believe are morally problematic (e.g., our current approach to prison labor), not only are not problematic, but also can point us toward more effective and efficient policy solutions in other areas.


Policing and punishment Fines and forfeitures Criminal justice reform 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Chris Surprenant declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of New OrleansNew OrleansUSA

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