Justice, Mercy and Mass Incarceration

There are three orienting facts that render mass incarceration in the United States an ethical problem worthy of our deep consideration. First, the rate of incarceration has grown dramatically over the last 40 years so that today there are 2.2 million people in prison or jail, and another 5 million on probation or parole. This means that 1/32 adults in the USA are under state supervision. Second, the application of incarceration is disproportionately applied to the poor, people of color, and other vulnerable populations. Research shows that 85-90% of those in the criminal justice system fall below the poverty line, and the experience of incarceration only impoverishes people further. The consequences of having a criminal record are harsh and debilitating, ranging from family disruption, social alienation, and disenfranchisement. In these ways and others, the current situation of crime and punishment represents a dramatic moral challenge. Finally, victims of crime are themselves poorly served by the current system, often ignored or sidelined in the machinery of punishment. This course seeks to discover alternatives to the current systems of crime and punishment in order to imagine a more inclusive, just and moral society.

Created by: Vanderbilt University

Language: English

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