What Do Alternative Sanctions Mean?
63 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2008 Last revised: 16 Apr 2013
Date Written: 1996
American jurisdictions have traditionally resisted fines and community service as alternatives to imprisonment, notwithstanding strong support for these sanctions among academics and reformers. Why? The answer, this article contends, is that these forms of punishment are expressively inferior to incarceration. The public expects punishment not only to deter crime and to impose deserved suffering, but also to make accurate statements about what the community values. Imprisonment has been and continues to be Americans' punishment of choice for serious offenses because of the resonance of liberty deprivation as a symbol of condemnation in our culture. Fines and community service either don't express condemnation as unambiguously as imprisonment, or express other valuations that Americans reject as false. The article also uses expressive theory to explain why the American public has consistently rejected proposals to restore corporal punishment, a form of discipline that offends egalitarian moral sensibilities; and why the public is now growing increasingly receptive to shaming punishments, which unlike conventional alternative sanctions signal condemnation unambiguously.
Keywords: shame, expressive theory, punishment, shaming sanctions
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