Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (4):775-789 (2014)

William Bülow O'Nils
Stockholm University
This paper discusses whether the collateral harm of imprisonment to the close family members and children of prison inmates may give rise to special moral obligations towards them. Several collateral harms, including decreased psychological wellbeing, financial costs, loss of economic opportunities, and intrusion and control over their private lives, are identified. Two competing perspectives in moral philosophy are then applied in order to assess whether the harms are permissible. The first is consequentialist and the second is deontological. It is argued that both of them fails and therefore it is hard to defend the position that allowing for these harms would be morally permissible, even for the sake of the overall aims of incarceration. Instead, it is argued that these harms imply that imprisonment should only be used as a last resort. Where it is necessary, it should give rise to special moral obligations. Using the notion of residual obligation, these obligations are defended, categorized and clarified.
Keywords Collateral harm  Doctrine of double effect  Imprisonment  Philosophy of punishment  Residual obligations
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10677-013-9483-7
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 63,133
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

On Virtue Ethics.Rosalind Hursthouse - 1999 - Oxford University Press.
The Right and the Good.Some Problems in Ethics.W. D. Ross & H. W. B. Joseph - 1933 - Journal of Philosophy 30 (19):517-527.
The Problem of Punishment.David Boonin - 2008 - Cambridge University Press.
Persons and Punishment.Herbert Morris - 1968 - The Monist 52 (4):475-501.

View all 22 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Social Injustice of Parental Imprisonment.Lars Lindblom & William Bülow - 2020 - Moral Philosophy and Politics 7 (2):299-320.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Imprisonable Offenses.Richard Lippke - 2006 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 3 (3):265-287.
Collateral Damage and the Principle of Due Care.Anne Schwenkenbecher - 2014 - Journal of Military Ethics 13 (1):94-105.
Rethinking Imprisonment.Richard L. Lippke - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
Parental Obligation.Nellie Wieland - 2011 - Utilitas 23 (3):249-267.
The Ratcheting-Up Effect.Vanessa Carbonell - 2012 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 93 (2):228-254.
The Rights and Wrongs of Consequentialism.Brian McElwee - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 151 (3):393 - 412.
Filial Obligations: A Comparative Study.Cecilia Wee - 2014 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 13 (1):83-97.
Is Moral Phenomenology Unified?Walter Sinnott-Armstrong - 2008 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 7 (1):85-97.


Added to PP index

Total views
114 ( #93,744 of 2,448,288 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
8 ( #83,992 of 2,448,288 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes