Criminal Justice Ethics 32 (1):1-18 (2013)

Authors
Zachary Hoskins
Nottingham University
Abstract
This paper objects to certain forms of punishments, such as supermax confinement, on grounds that they are inappropriately contemptuous. Building on discussions in Kant and elsewhere, I flesh out what I take to be salient features of contempt, features that make contempt especially troubling as a form of moral regard and treatment. As problematic as contempt may be in the interpersonal context, I contend that it is especially troubling when a person is treated contemptuously by her political community’s institutions -- such as by certain forms of punishment. Punishment is contemptuous if it fails to respect offenders as moral persons, who as such are always capable of moral reform. Respect for offenders therefore requires, at least, that punishment not tend to undermine the prospect of offenders’ reform. I flesh out this constraint by considering various ways in which punishments may tend to undermine offenders’ reform. In particular, I discuss ways in which supermax confinement tends to violate the reform-based constraint. Finally, I address several potential objections to my account.
Keywords punishment  reform  contempt
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DOI 10.1080/0731129X.2013.777250
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