Decarceration should be justified not on instrumental grounds such as cost saving but on the basis of constitutive moral arguments. While instrumental justifications are less controversial, the path of least resistance in the short run will be the path of least progress in the long run. Punishment is in a fundamental sense constitutive. We are how we punish. We define ourselves in part by the risks that we take and by the things that we forgive. And punishment inevitably involves decisions about both risk and about forgiveness. We lost our faith in our journey toward a freer, more equal and more humane society. We are not going to restore that faith with instrumental arguments about cost or efficiency.
- punitive sensibility
- instrumental grounds for decarceration
- constitutive moral arguments
- de-moralizing the civil rights movement
- © 2014 Vera Institute of Justice