The project has a number of current strands each concerned to investigate how punishment relates to, and can be reconfigured by, practices of democracy and citizenship.

Democratic Theory and Mass Incarceration

with Albert Dzur and Richard Sparks

This collection of original essays seeks to catalyze an engaged, multi-disciplinary discussion among philosophers, political theorists, and theoretically inclined criminologists of how contemporary democratic theory might begin to think beyond mass incarceration.  Rather than viewing punishment as a natural reaction to crime and imprisonment as a sensible outgrowth of this reaction, we frame these as institutions with deep implications for contemporary civic identity and which present unmet demands for public oversight and reflective democratic influence.  What conceptual resources can be deployed to support de-carceration and alternatives to prison?  How might democratic theory strengthen recent efforts in restorative justice and other reform movements?  How can the normative complexity of criminal justice be grappled with by lay citizens rather than experts or officials—from street-level policing decisions, to adjudication, to prison and probation policy?  How, in short, might modern publics forge a creative alternative to an unreflective commitment to mass incarceration?  In reflecting on these questions, the authors investigate the invisibility of the prison in the discourse of mainstream political theory, offer normative theoretical guideposts for thinking about incarceration, critically examine the methods and uses of public opinion regarding punishment, and suggest ways of rebuilding crime control institutions to enhance rather than thwart citizen capabilities.


Democracy, Citizenship, and Punishment: Royal Society of Edinburgh Research Network

with Antony Duff and Richard Sparks

Normative penal theory too often treats the problem of criminal punishment as an abstract question in applied moral philosophy: it too often fails to attend to the concrete realities of criminal punishment as a political institution—to its material modes, to its impact on those subjected to it, and to its place within the political apparatus of a society. Criminology, conversely, has frequently treated punishment as a technical matter – something that does or does not work to accomplish a certain instrumental objective: to deter, to incapacitate, to correct. This network-building project aims to refocus on criminal punishment as a political institution, and to ask what role it can properly play in a democratic political community.


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