“Divergent moral vision” — Collateral consequences in Europe and the U.S.

A new article in the Stanford Law Review discusses the radically different forms of punishment in the United States and Europe, which its author attributes at least in part to differing moral visions of wrongdoing and wrongdoers.  In Two Cultures of Punishment, Joshua Kleinfeld argues that while Americans tend to regard serious offenders as “morally deformed people rather than ordinary people who have committed crimes,” European cultures “affirm even the worst offenders’ claims to social membership and rights.”

Kleinfeld illustrates this “divergent moral vision” by the very different approach European countries take to collateral consequences. (The other two areas discussed in the article are lengthy prison terms and capital punishment).  Whereas in this country people convicted of crime are subject to a lifetime of legal restrictions and social stigma analogous to older forms of civil death, and are effectively consigned to a kind of “internal exile,” in Europe people who have committed a crime benefit from numerous measures to encourage their reintegration.

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Expanding college opportunities for prisoners in California

DegreesofFreedom2015_ReportCoverLast week was an exciting one for proponents of the expansion of college opportunities for people who are currently incarcerated or who have criminal records.  Two reports were released that propose strategies to break the cycle of recidivism, promote public safety, and de-escalate mass incarceration by opening up post-secondary educational opportunities.  It is fitting that both reports come at a time when America is reflecting on the events of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama, fifty years ago, and envisioning where the momentum of Black Lives Matter will take us.  It is the intersection of an historic civil rights struggle, the human rights movement that confronts “mass criminalization” and the racial divide in the U.S. today.

The Stanford Criminal Justice Center and the Warren Institute at the UC Berkeley School of Law issued a report from the Renewing Communities Initiative, Degrees of Freedom: Expanding College Opportunities for Currently and Formerly Incarcerated Californians It was released just days after the Center for Community Alternatives (CCA) in cooperation with the Education from the Inside Out Coalition (EIO Coalition), issued its report, Boxed Out: Criminal History Screening and College Application Attrition, the subject of an earlier post on March 4, 2015.

 

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