1st Edition

Rethinking Punishment
Challenging Conventions in Research and Policy

ISBN 9781138891203
Published January 23, 2017 by Routledge
178 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations

USD $62.95

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Book Description

There are visible signs that the "get-tough" era of punishment is finally winding down. A "get-smart" agenda has emerged that aims to reduce costs and crime by reducing the incarceration of non-violent drug offenders, expanding use of community-based corrections, revising sentencing structures, and supporting offender re-entry into the community. This change in policy affords an opportunity to re-examine and challenge certain other conventions in the study and practice of punishment.

Each chapter of Rethinking Punishment examines a convention and posits arguments that challenge that convention and expand the conversation. These arguments are based on the prior literature, existing and original data, and historical documents. These conventions and arguments for rethinking punishment are framed accordingly:

  • Justifying Penal Policy
  • Defining the Attributes of Punishment
  • Measuring the Scope and Severity of Punishment
  • Evaluating Effectiveness in Punishment

Finally, the author provides specific recommendations for research and policy based on these original arguments. Drawing on underlying philosophical, empirical and political issues and offering a critical discussion of the relationship between research, policy and practice, this book makes compelling and instructive reading for students taking courses in criminal justice, corrections, philosophy of punishment, the sociology of punishment, and law and justice.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction

1.1 From "Get-Tough" to "Get-Smart"

1.2 Chapter Framework

1.3 A Note on Exclusions and Terminology

2. Justifying Punishment: A Moral and Economic Defense of Policy

2.1 Part I: Classic Philosophies of Punishment

2.2 Part II: Post-Classic Justifications of Punishment

2.3 Summary and Conclusions

3. Defining Punishment: The Essential Attributes of Penal Activity

3.1 What is Punishment? Definitions from the Academic Literature

3.2 What is Punishment? A Legal Framework

3.3 What is Punishment? A Social Control Framework

3.4 What is Punishment? A Power Theory Framework

3.5 Summary and Conclusions

4. Measuring Punishment: The Scope & Severity of Penal Activity

4.1 A Brief History on the Measurement of Punishment

4.2 Part I: The Scope of Penal Activity

4.3 Part II: The Severity of Penal Activity

4.4 Summary and Conclusions

5. Evaluating Punishment: "What Works" and the Pursuit of Effectiveness

5.1 The Expectations and Evaluation of Punishment: An Historical Perspective

5.2 The New Evidence-Based Culture

5.3 What We Know About "What Works"

5.4 Summary and Conclusions

6. Prescribing Punishment: Alternative Directions in Research & Policy

6.1 Conventions in Prescribing Research & Policy

6.2 Justifying Punishment: Loss Reduction as Penal Policy

6.3 Defining & Measuring Punishment: More Debate, More Data

6.4 Evaluating Punishment: Severity, Community and Insider Knowledge

6.5 Final Thoughts

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Karol M. Lucken is Associate Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, University of Central Florida, USA


"In the punishment business, we are all pushing Sisyphus’s rock – researchers, practitioners, reformers and especially recipients of punishment – and the shadow it casts has blinded us to just how little progress we have made up this hill (if any). In this lucid, original and utterly persuasive analysis, Lucken somehow rises above this insane cycle we are perpetuating and even suggests a way out of the futility. I can’t imagine a more important and urgently needed book. It should be read and re-read at regular intervals like a treatment for an incurable disease."

Shadd Maruna, Professor of Criminology, University of Manchester, UK

"After several decades of "get tough" approaches to crime and punishment, changes is coming, if slowly and sporadically. In Rethinking Punishment, Karol Lucken, a corrections scholar, examines the new approaches to corrections. The book provides an accurate, yet accessible and up-to-date overview of punishment philosophy and what works (and what doesn’t) in corrections in the 21st century. The book will prove useful to corrections scholars, students, and anyone who wishes to better understand the state of punishment today."

Craig Hemmens, Chair and Professor, Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Washington State University, USA

"In Rethinking Punishment, Karol Lucken insightfully unlocks the grand motifs that continue to logjam the agenda to do anything reasonable to reverse the treadmill of mass incarceration. With a Trump presidency thrust upon us, this book is not only timely but also offers ‘smart’ remedies void of ideological grandstanding."

Michael Welch, Professor of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University, USA

"After forty years of carceral expansion, the US punitive experiment may have reached a turning point. As the rhetoric of law and order is increasingly challenged by neoliberal arguments about cost containment, critical scholars face the difficult task of charting the possible futures of punishment in an age of fiscal conservatism. Exceptionally well-researched and richly documented, Rethinking Punishment provides an original map of current debates around the definition, justification, and evaluation of penal practices and envisions possible paths toward alternative reformist agendas. This timely book is an invaluable resource for scholars, activists, and anyone interested in the future of the US penal state."

Alessandro De Giorgi, Associate Professor of Justice Studies, San Jose State University, USA