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A democratic theory of imprisonment

Ramsay, Peter (2016) A democratic theory of imprisonment. In: Dzur, Albert, Loader, Ian and Sparks, Richard, (eds.) Democratic Theory and Mass Incarceration. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 84 - 113. ISBN 9780190243098

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Identification Number: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190243098.003.0005


The chapter provides a sketch of a democratic theory of imprisonment. It explains the failure of the liberal idea of proportionality to provide adequate limits on the severity of punishment. It argues that imprisonment entails a suspension of a citizen’s political equality and a suspension of a citizen’s status as a ruler. It adapts Alan Brudner’s Hegelian penal theory to specify the conditions in which a democracy can suspend a citizen’s political equality consistently with her status as a ruler. It demonstrates the inherent decremental tendency of this democratic retributivism, and argues that recent rising rates of imprisonment in the United States and the United Kingdom are explained by the contemporaneous retreat of political equality. It concludes by considering the punishment of noncitizens under democratic retributivism, the persistent social injustice of democratic state punishment, and the potential of political equality to abolish both the prison and criminal justice.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 Oxford University Press
Divisions: Law
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JC Political theory
K Law > KD England and Wales
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2016 16:37
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 05:44

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