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Gordon Bazemore The Expansion of Punishment and the Restriction of Justice: Loss of Limits in the Implementation of Retributive Policy PRIOR TO THE 19 8 0 s , INTELLECTUALS AND PERHAPS A MAJORITY OF corrections professionals in the United States would likely have been ridiculed for arguing for punishm ent as a prim ary objective of crim i­ nal justice intervention. Rehabilitation reigned as the dom inant goal of intervention, w ith only a few voices challenging the “justice” of an apparent lack of limits and choice sometimes associated w ith treatm ent regimes and parole board decisionm aking (American Friends Service Committee, 1970). Though rehabilitation has never sufficed as a justice goal or prim ary rationale for intervention, as m ore significant critiques challenged the em pirical basis of support for treatm ent (Martinson, 1977), punishm ent by the 1980s suddenly appeared to have achieved a new status of academic respectability. More im portant, the absence of any apparent alternative allowed retributive punishm ent to become the prim ary “currency” of justice in the United States, and a central focus of criminal justice policy dialogue. social research Vol 74 : No 2 : Summer 2007 651 There should be little doubt that a dom inant goal of the academic just desserts movem ent in the United States has been to lim it punish­ m ent and increase the uniform ity of its application (von Hirsch, 1976). Having accepted the prem ise that punishm ent is a good—or at least necessary evil—m uch of the intellectual work in sentencing reform of the past three decades became focused on the establishm ent o f guide­ lines and (ideally) restrictions on its use (Tonry, 1996; 1994). Outside the academic and policy discussion, however, the new legitim acy afforded to retributive punishm ent seemed to free legislators and advo­ cacy groups to m ore openly advocate for expanded prison sentences w ith little if any concern for such lim its.1 Meanwhile, as the vacuum left by the decline of support for rehabilitation (Cullen and Gilbert, 1982; Cullen, Sundt, and Wozniak, 2001) was filled w ith a new rheto­ ric that enshrined “just punishm ent” as the currency ofjustice, unifor­ m ity became the metric for structuring its use. Aside from the issue of w hether uniform ity could ever be achieved in an unequal society, the tendency in academic and some policy discussions seemed surprisingly to conflate uniform ity w ith justice itself. In doing so, this discourse appeared to minimize or ignored the role of now acknowledged proce­ dural aspects ofjustice rituals—including the quality of input allowed, inform ation provided, and the overall sense of fairness perceived by participants in these processes (Tyler, 1990). SYMPTOMS OF A PUNISHMENT ADDICTION Beyond this, public discourse appeared to shift to rhetoric that assumed th at punishm ent was the equivalent of justice. On the one hand, if asked to define “justice,” m ost Americans use words such as fairness, sim ilar or equal treatm ent, lack o f discrim ination, due process, and equal opportunity. Yet, w hen asked w hat is m eant w hen we hear that someone has been “brought to justice,” we inevitably think first of punishm ent—often severe punishm ent. Unfortunately, m uch flows downward from this overarching logic of justice as the equivalent of deserved retribution to provide support for w hat m uch of the world m ust now recognize as an American addiction to punishm ent. Rightly, 652 social research we may m ore accurately refer to a policym aker addiction to punish­ m ent: public opinion polls continue to suggest th at citizens, w hen given alternatives in specific case scenarios, appear to be less punitive than politicians and the legislation they develop (Shiraldi and Soler, 1998; Pranis andU m breit, 1992; Doble and Immerwahr, 1997). There are m any sym ptom s of the addiction to punishm ent am ong American crim inal justice policymakers. Indeed, some of the best illustrations of the apparent loss of lim its on retribution were discussed in the New School’s “Punishm ent: The U.S. Record” confer­ ence (for exam ple, papers and presentations by Travis...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 651-662
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-30
Open Access
No
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