CONN 318

Crime and Punishment

The U.S. criminal justice system has embraced retribution at the expense of other models of justice. Retributive punishment harms and sometimes kills; therefore it is either wrong or needs justification. This course suggests that such justification is difficult to construct and is undermined by pervasive injustices of classism and racism. Is restorative justice a viable alternative? The course begins by studying the death penalty in the Abrahamic traditions and understanding how contemporary Jews, Muslims, and Christians argue against capital punishment. Attention turns to philosophical arguments for and against retributive justice and capital punishment. The course then explores how well philosophical justifications of retributive punishment withstand the sociological injustices that some argue are embedded in the criminal justice system. The psychology of dangerous, violent offenders is studied to understand how their backgrounds may or may not mitigate imposition of a death sentence. In the final unit, the viability of restorative justice is investigated.