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Baron, , . Excuses, Excuses
2007, Criminal Law and Philosophy 1 (1):21-39
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Joe Slater

Abstract: Justifications and excuses are defenses that exculpate. They are therefore much more like each other than like such defenses as diplomatic immunity, which does not exculpate. But they exculpate in different ways, and it has proven difficult to agree on just what that difference consists in. In this paper I take a step back from justification and excuse as concepts in criminal law, and look at the concepts as they arise in everyday life. To keep the task manageable, I focus primarily on excuses and excusing activities, distinguishing them from justifications as well as from other close relatives, in particular, forgiving and pardoning. I draw upon J.L. Austin-s classic ‘A Plea for Excuses,’ but expand on his account, suggesting that we offer excuses for reasons besides those he mentions. My hope is that my examination of excuses and excusing activities will help us rethink our views on just how justifications and excuses differ, views which often are worked out without much attention to how these concepts function in everyday life and to the connection between offers of excuses and justifications and the ‘’rules of civility.’

Comment: Baron explains the typical distinction between justifications and excuses. Her examination of these concepts draws upon Austin’s ‘A Plea for Excuses’, and use of the everyday concept, she presses for a rethink of how philosophers and legal theorists think about excuses.

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Guenther, Lisa, , . Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives
2013, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
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Added by: Rochelle DuFord, Contributed by:

Abstract: Prolonged solitary confinement has become a widespread and standard practice in U.S. prisons – even though it consistently drives healthy prisoners insane, makes the mentally ill sicker, and, according to the testimony of prisoners, threatens to reduce life to a living death. In this profoundly important and original book, Lisa Guenther examines the death-in-life experience of solitary confinement in America from the early nineteenth century to today’s supermax prisons. Documenting how solitary confinement undermines prisoners’ sense of identity and their ability to understand the world, Guenther demonstrates the real effects of forcibly isolating a person for weeks, months, or years. -/- Drawing on the testimony of prisoners and the work of philosophers and social activists from Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty to Frantz Fanon and Angela Davis, the author defines solitary confinement as a kind of social death. It argues that isolation exposes the relational structure of being by showing what happens when that structure is abused – when prisoners are deprived of the concrete relations with others on which our existence as sense-making creatures depends. Solitary confinement is beyond a form of racial or political violence; it is an assault on being.

Comment: This text serves as both a clear introduction to the history of punishment and imprisonment in the United States, as well as a clear introduction to phenomenological method. Portions of the text on the experience of social death in solitary confinement would make excellent additions to introductory courses on prisons and punishment. Some chapters would also be fitting on classes concerning race and mass incarceration.

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Hsin-wen, Lee, , . Taking Deterrence Seriously: The Wide-Scope Deterrence Theory of Punishment
2017, Criminal Justice Ethics 36 (1):2-24.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Hsin-Wen Lee

Abstract: A deterrence theory of punishment holds that the institution of criminal punishment is morally justified because it serves to deter crime. Because the fear of external sanction is an important incentive in crime deterrence, the deterrence theory is often associated with the idea of severe, disproportionate punishment. An objection to this theory holds that hope of escape renders even the severest punishment inapt and irrelevant.This article revisits the concept of deterrence and defend a more plausible deterrence theory of punishment – the wide-scope deterrence theory. The wide-scope theory holds that we must make the best use of all the deterrence tools available, including both external and internal sanctions. Drawing on insights from the early Confucian tradition, the article develops a deep deterrence theory, which holds that the most important deterrence tool involves internal, not external, sanction. It describes how internal sanctions deter potential offenses and why relevant policies need not conflict with liberalism’s respect for neutrality.

Comment: This text can be used in courses such as Philosophy of Law and/or Social and Political Philosophy.
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