Punishment Beyond the Legal Offender

Posted: 6 Dec 2007

See all articles by Megan Comfort

Megan Comfort

RTI International; University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)


In the United States, lawbreakers are treated as social isolates, and the sentences imposed upon them are conceived of as affecting a discrete individual. However, people who commit or are suspected of committing crimes are generally embedded in kinship webs and social networks that draw others into the ambit of the state's punishment apparatus. Through their association with someone convicted of a crime, legally innocent people have firsthand and often intense contact with criminal justice authorities and correctional facilities, they experience variants of the direct and indirect consequences of incarceration, and they are confronted by the paradox of a penal state that has become the primary distributor of social services for the poor in the United States. Collectively, studies investigating punishment beyond the offender contribute to the understanding of the wide and multi-faceted impact of punitive sanctions and spotlight the importance of considering this full range of repercussions when evaluating the scope of the nation's policing, judicial, and correctional policies.

Keywords: family, incarceration, public health, social welfare, unintended consequences

Suggested Citation

Comfort, Megan, Punishment Beyond the Legal Offender. Annual Review of Law & Social Science, Vol. 3, December 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1060761

Megan Comfort (Contact Author)

RTI International

351 California St.
Ste. 500
San Francisco, CA 94104
United States
415-848-1375 (Phone)

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) ( email )

Third Avenue and Parnassus
San Francisco, CA CA 94143
United States

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