Beyond the Numbers: Toward a Moral Vision for Criminal Justice Reform
7 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2015
Date Written: June 10, 2015
The diverse coalition of activists trying to cut the prison population has thus far failed to articulate a coherent moral foundation for criminal justice reform. Since the various constituents of this coalition support reform for different reasons, it may seem savvy to avoid conversation about moral questions. We argue, however, that failing to work toward developing a moral basis for reform puts the coalition at risk of repeating the failures of the sentencing reform movement of the 1970s and 1980s. This initially promising movement culminated in the passage of the widely disliked and deeply flawed United States Sentencing Guidelines. We lay out and analyze the downsides of avoiding moral discourse in criminal justice reform movements and argue for more collaboration and dialogue between moral thinkers and activists.
Keywords: criminal justice reform, philosophy, moral theory
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