Ethics and criminal justice policy

Authored by: Matt Matravers

The Routledge Handbook of Ethics and Public Policy

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  October  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138201279
eBook ISBN: 9781315461731
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter considers the various purposes that have been posited of criminal justice systems. It argues that the ‘penal-welfarist’ era that dominated much of the twentieth century was partially ended by a ‘retributivist turn’ in the 1970s. However, the latter failed to establish itself in both theory and practice. The result is that current criminal justice policy is confused. It is argued that this is problematic for ethical evaluation since if we do not know what we are doing, we cannot know whether we are doing it well. The chapter ends by considering the place of democracy and the problem of social injustice in ‘doing’ criminal justice.

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