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NCJ Number: 218419 Find in a Library
Title: Punishment and Democracy: The Role of Public Deliberation
Journal: Punishment & Society  Volume:9  Issue:2  Dated:April 2007  Pages:151-175
Author(s): Albert W. Dzur; Rekha Mirchandani
Date Published: April 2007
Page Count: 25
Type: Research (Theoretical)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article focuses on two case studies--three strikes legislation and problem-solving courts--to illustrate the distinction between successful and unsuccessful public deliberation concerning criminal justice policies and practices.
Abstract: The main findings from the case studies indicated two different outcomes. First, it was found that neglectful standards of rational-critical debate could produce opinions (distinguished from public opinions) that emerged from the public but in unreflective and unimaginative ways. The result of such unreflective opinion is exemplified in the widely criticized three strikes legislation. On the other hand, the second case study illustrated how reflective and thoughtful rational-critical public debate could result in reasonable criminal justice policies, such as the imposition of punishments in problem-solving courts, including drug, domestic violence, mental health, and community courts. The analysis relies on Habermas’s democratic theory to develop and explain the ideal of public deliberation and civic participation and to show how criminal justice policies may be subjected to public rational-critical debate. The authors argue that widespread public deliberation regarding criminal justice policies and practices is a key component of the requirements of legitimate punishment in any democratic society. Healthy debates are characterized as rational, open, and ongoing deliberations that bring pluralistic attention to the different values and principles at stake in any social policy discussion. The authors point out that the three strikes legislation grew out of public debate that was exceedingly narrow and focused mainly on cost, potential for prison crowding, and the possibility of higher taxes. In the case of problem-solving courts, on the other hand, the public debate took a deeper, better-informed, and more closely engaged character. Notes, references
Main Term(s): Public Attitudes/Opinion; Punishment
Index Term(s): Community involvement; Public interest advocacy; Theory
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