Principle of Charity
Do Criminals Deserve to be Punished?
When someone breaks the law, most of us have an instinct that they should be punished. In fact, that they deserve to be punished. At the base of this is a sense that we are morally responsible for our actions and we should get our ‘just deserts’ if we make bad choices.
This assumption is deeply encoded in the criminal law itself. Sure, there are other reasons we may want to put criminals behind bars – keeping society safe, deterring others from committing the same crime, even rehabilitation. But deep down lies the instinct of ‘retribution’, that a person who has done wrong just deserves to be punished for their wrongdoing.
But why do they? Well, at the root of it is our cherished belief that we have ‘free will’. That we make our decisions freely and that we can choose to act differently.
Our guest Gregg Carusso rejects this idea entirely. He sees free will as an illusion. He asks us to consider a justice system built entirely without retributive justice, where no one is imprisoned because they ‘deserve’ to be punished. Gregg is Professor of Philosophy, State University New York, Corning, Honorary Professor at Sydney’s Macquarie University and Co Director of the Justice Without Retribution Network at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.
In his latest book Just Deserts, Gregg debates with fellow philosopher Daniel C Dennett moral responsibility, punishment and free will.
Our other guest, Katrina Sifferd believes the justice system can and should be grounded in a concept of free will. She shares some concerns with Gregg that the system is at times overly punitive, but believes that we have the capacity to act as morally responsible individuals. In fact, in her book ‘Responsible Brains’, she looks at the neuroscience at work in our brain, and sees our ‘executive function’ as the seat of our moral responsibility. Katrina is professor and chair of philosophy at Chicago’s Elmurst University and co editor in chief of the publication Neuro-ethics. Katrina earned a Juris Doctorate and has worked on criminal justice projects for the US National Institute of Justice. She is the author of numerous articles and book chapters on responsibility, criminal law and punishment.
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Your hosts are Lloyd Vogelman and Emile Sherman.
Find Lloyd @LloydVogelman on Linked in
Find Emile @EmileSherman on Linked In and Twitter.
This Podcast is Produced by Jonah Primo and Bronwen Reid
Find Jonah @JonahPrimomusic on Instagram.