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The measure with which we measure.

Skotnicki, Andrew
June 4, 2015

Source: (2012) Christian Reflection. Prison. pp. 20-28.

I would like to emphasize two points prior to beginning our discussion.
First, in the rather antiseptic vocabulary and procedural formality of Western
law and justice, it is important to remember that punishment is an act
of violence. The late Robert Cover, noted professor at Yale Law School, has
written: “Judges deal pain and death. That is not all that they do. Perhaps
that is not what they usually do. But they do deal death, and pain. From
John Winthrop through Warren Burger they have sat atop a pyramid of
violence….”3 Second, in our judicial methodology the amount of punishment
is determined and orchestrated in a subject/object duality: the offender must
be presented and viewed primarily as a lawbreaker who is required to suffer
at the hands of the state and its agents if found guilty of the culpable offense.
It is vital to consider the troubling ambiguities in these juridical rituals and
in the moral assumptions underlying them. Ronald Dworkin gives voice to
the moral ghosts that haunt the daily determinations of the proper quantum
of pain to which the legally culpable must be subject: “Day in and day out
we send people to jail…or make them do things they do not want to do,
under coercion of force, and we justify all of this by speaking of such persons
as having broken the law…. Even in clear cases…we are not able to
give a satisfactory account of what that means, or why that entitles the
state to punish or coerce.” (excerpt)


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