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The criminal republic: Democratic breakdown as a cause of mass incarceration.

Taslitz, Andrew E
June 4, 2015

Source: (2011) Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law. 9(1):133-193.

First, more informed decisions will be better ones. That requires some
deference to criminal justice experts. But encouraging such deference
simultaneously requires better educating the public. “Teaching” is useless,
however, unless students are attentive and open-minded. Deliberative mechanisms
that engage the public with the specifics of concrete cases and compel them to
engage with people outside their social sphere and ideas outside their political one
help to encourage such attentiveness and open-mindedness. Indeed, such
mechanisms better enable ordinary persons to draw on their own justice instincts in
a more effective, informed way. Unfortunately, these mechanisms require smallgroup
contact, making them hard to implement on a widespread basis.
Second, any mechanism that encourages greater empathy for other groups will
moderate carceral impulses. Again, such empathy requires prolonged, increased
contact with members of such groups in shared tasks. Such contact is likewise
hard to foster society-wide.
Ultimately, therefore, reformers should encourage any empathy-promoting,
accurate information-expanding, and particularly inclusive deliberative efforts in
connection with criminal justice. That may lead to small victories and gradual
improvement in currently harsh carceral policies. More likely, however, if the
thesis suggested here is correct, more fundamental changes in America’s political
system to move away from raw populism toward more deliberative populism will
be necessary. I can see no such changes on the horizon. Absent unexpected
shocks to the political system, therefore, I see an immediate future of, at best,
modest improvement in a bleak carceral justice polity. (excerpt)


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