Special Issue "Rough Justice: Penal Sanctions, Human Dignity, and Human Rights"

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A special issue of Laws (ISSN 2075-471X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 November 2014)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Robert Johnson (Website)

Department of Justice, Law, and Criminology, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, DC 20016, USA
Interests: the prison and other institutions of punishment and confinement; the death penalty; institutional violence; race and justice in America; creative writing on crime and punishment

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue of Laws—Rough Justice: Penal Sanctions, Human Dignity, and Human Rights—focuses on the severe criminal sanctions available in modern justice systems, in practice if not also in law.  These sanctions range from sentences to jails and prisons marked by conditions of incarceration that are degrading, through to uniquely cruel sanctions and practices such as solitary confinement, permanent confinement, torture, and execution. Much has been written about incarceration and other penal sanctions from a sociological point of view. Little scholarship has focused on extreme penal sanctions from a human rights perspective, a perspective that has at its core a respect for human dignity.  This issue will include writings that focus on these penal sanctions from a human rights perspective, works that establish the state of practice with respect to these penal sanctions, and works that suggest reforms.  Authors working on articles focusing on human rights concerns relevant to harsh penal sanctions are encouraged to contribute to this issue.  Research and theory drawing on the law, the social sciences, and the humanities are welcome.

Prof. Robert Johnson
Guest Editor

Submission

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Laws is an international peer-reviewed Open Access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 300 CHF (Swiss Francs). English correction and/or formatting fees of 250 CHF (Swiss Francs) will be charged in certain cases for those articles accepted for publication that require extensive additional formatting and/or English corrections.

References

Daly, Erin. Dignity Rights: Courts, Constitutions, and the Worth of the Human Person. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

Ferguson, Robert. Inferno: An Anatomy of American Punishment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014

Johnson, Robert. Death Work: A Study of the Modern Execution Process, 2nd ed. Belmont: Wadsworth, l998.

Liebling, Alison. “Moral Performance, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Prison Pain.” Punishment & Society 13, no. 5 (2011): 530–50.

Smith, Peter Scharff. “Imprisonment and Internet-Access: Human Rights: The Principle of Normalization and the Question of Prisoners Access to Digital Commons Technology.” Nordic Journal of Human Rights 30, no. 4 (2012): 454–82.

Toch, Hans. Organizational Change through Individual Empowerment: Applying Social Science in Prisons and Policing. Washington: American Psychological Association, 2014.

Westervelt, Sandra D., and Kimberly J. Cook. Life after Death Row: Exonerees’ Search for Community and Identity. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2012.

Whitman, James. Harsh Justice: Criminal Punishment and the Widening Divide between America and Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Keywords

  • death sentences
  • life sentences
  • solitary confinement
  • torture
  • prisons
  • prison reform
  • dignity
  • rights

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Doing “Life”: A Glimpse into the Long-Term Incarceration Experience
Laws 2015, 4(3), 559-578; doi:10.3390/laws4030559
Received: 20 May 2015 / Revised: 13 August 2015 / Accepted: 13 August 2015 / Published: 26 August 2015
PDF Full-text (219 KB)
Abstract
“Life means life” is a mantra of elected state officials who would rather spend already-compromised state budgets on increasing the use of imprisonment as a punishing tool rather than being viewed by their constituents as “soft on crime”. As a result of [...] Read more.
“Life means life” is a mantra of elected state officials who would rather spend already-compromised state budgets on increasing the use of imprisonment as a punishing tool rather than being viewed by their constituents as “soft on crime”. As a result of tough-on-crime initiatives, approximately 160,000 out of 2.2 million inmates being held in jails and prisons in the United States are serving life sentences. While surviving imprisonment is a challenge for most individuals, prisoners who serve long sentences—including “life”—have different adaptation mechanisms, and for them, adaptation is a longer, more complex process. Further, while persons serving life sentences include those who present a serious threat to public safety, they also include those for whom the length of sentence is questionable. In particular, life without parole (LWOP) sentences often represent a misuse of limited correctional resources and discount the capacity for personal growth and rehabilitation that comes with the passage of time. The purpose of this article is to explore the “doing life” experiences of a man who has chosen to redirect the focus of his life by transforming himself and helping others. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rough Justice: Penal Sanctions, Human Dignity, and Human Rights)
Open AccessArticle House Demolitions
Laws 2015, 4(2), 216-228; doi:10.3390/laws4020216
Received: 27 January 2015 / Revised: 12 May 2015 / Accepted: 13 May 2015 / Published: 29 May 2015
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Abstract
This article discusses the nature of “house demolitions” as used by the State of Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In our opinion, and in contrast to the view of Israel’s Supreme Court, such demolition orders constitute a penal sanction. [...] Read more.
This article discusses the nature of “house demolitions” as used by the State of Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In our opinion, and in contrast to the view of Israel’s Supreme Court, such demolition orders constitute a penal sanction. As a penal sanction, we argue that this measure violates the basic principles of criminal liability. Even if this conclusion is not accepted, it will be argued that making innocent people homeless is an illegal collective measure. Even if assuming arguendo that it is not an illegal collective measure, it violates the basic principle of personal responsibility. The general conclusion of the article is that the examination of the nature of sanctions should go beyond the labels that are attached to them. Labeling sanctions as either penal or civil may not always reflect its true nature, and labels are sometimes deliberately used or rather misused in order to escape from the requirements stemming from the true essence of a sanction. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rough Justice: Penal Sanctions, Human Dignity, and Human Rights)
Open AccessArticle Examining the Conservative Shift from Harsh Justice
Laws 2015, 4(1), 107-124; doi:10.3390/laws4010107
Received: 28 October 2014 / Revised: 13 January 2015 / Accepted: 10 March 2015 / Published: 19 March 2015
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Abstract
Recently, a political shift has been observed, in that some political conservatives are now advocating, adjusting, or abandoning draconian drug laws, including mandatory minimums, and funding diversion, re-entry, and drug programs. Vocal proponents of this movement include Grover Norquist, Rand Paul, Edwin [...] Read more.
Recently, a political shift has been observed, in that some political conservatives are now advocating, adjusting, or abandoning draconian drug laws, including mandatory minimums, and funding diversion, re-entry, and drug programs. Vocal proponents of this movement include Grover Norquist, Rand Paul, Edwin Meese, and Mark Levin, from the Texas Public Policy Council. Any movement away from the mass incarceration that has characterized the U.S. correctional policy for the last 30 years is welcomed; however, it is important to note carefully the philosophical foundation of the conservative’s interest in shifting correctional policy. This paper explores the potential factors contributing to this philosophical shift. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rough Justice: Penal Sanctions, Human Dignity, and Human Rights)
Open AccessArticle USP Marion: A Few Prisoners Summon the Courage to Speak
Laws 2015, 4(1), 91-106; doi:10.3390/laws4010091
Received: 9 November 2014 / Revised: 15 January 2015 / Accepted: 26 January 2015 / Published: 3 February 2015
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Abstract
USP Marion is the first supermax federal penitentiary. Marionization refers to the experimental control program used at this prison. The prisoners speaking in this article suffered many years of solitary confinement. This research brief discusses some of what they experienced in their [...] Read more.
USP Marion is the first supermax federal penitentiary. Marionization refers to the experimental control program used at this prison. The prisoners speaking in this article suffered many years of solitary confinement. This research brief discusses some of what they experienced in their own words. These are the recollections of a few Marion prisoners that have summoned the courage to speak out and share their darkest memories. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rough Justice: Penal Sanctions, Human Dignity, and Human Rights)
Open AccessArticle The Electronic Monitoring Paradigm: A Proposal for Transforming Criminal Justice in the USA
Laws 2015, 4(1), 60-81; doi:10.3390/laws4010060
Received: 2 October 2014 / Revised: 9 December 2014 / Accepted: 19 January 2015 / Published: 27 January 2015
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Abstract
This article proposes a change in public policy that promises to greatly reduce major crime in the United States, protect society, eliminate prison overcrowding, and save taxpayer dollars. This policy would employ electronic monitoring (EM) technology in a way that discourages individuals [...] Read more.
This article proposes a change in public policy that promises to greatly reduce major crime in the United States, protect society, eliminate prison overcrowding, and save taxpayer dollars. This policy would employ electronic monitoring (EM) technology in a way that discourages individuals who might otherwise be tempted to commit crimes. The approach is arguably more effective, efficient, humane and ethical than any alternative strategy and potentially could revolutionize law enforcement and the American criminal justice system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rough Justice: Penal Sanctions, Human Dignity, and Human Rights)
Figures

Open AccessArticle Post-Release Success among Paroled Lifers
Laws 2014, 3(4), 798-823; doi:10.3390/laws3040798
Received: 26 August 2014 / Revised: 22 November 2014 / Accepted: 24 November 2014 / Published: 15 December 2014
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Abstract
Previous research suggests that social relations, in particular the forming of family ties and employment (social factors), self-efficacy (personal factors), and therapeutic interventions (institutional factors) constitute main contributors in post-release success. These studies, however, have largely been based on general delinquents serving [...] Read more.
Previous research suggests that social relations, in particular the forming of family ties and employment (social factors), self-efficacy (personal factors), and therapeutic interventions (institutional factors) constitute main contributors in post-release success. These studies, however, have largely been based on general delinquents serving relatively short prison terms. This study aims to shed light on the influence of social, personal, and institutional factors on post-release success versus failure among paroled lifers. We conducted in-depth life-history interviews with 64 individuals who had served a life sentence, who were either re-incarcerated for another crime or parole violation, or were currently out on parole. The role of social factors in desistance among long-term incarcerated offenders was minimal. Rather, self-efficacy appeared to be a key element in post-release success. These findings suggest that research based on short-term incarcerated offenders cannot be directly translated to long-term incarcerated offenders. This group does not experience the same traditional turning points, such as establishing family ties and employment. Accordingly, long-term prisoners may go through a different process post-release that determines their success versus failure compared to general delinquents who serve shorter sentences. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rough Justice: Penal Sanctions, Human Dignity, and Human Rights)
Open AccessArticle Re-Imagining Punishment: An Exercise in “Intersectional Criminal Justice”
Laws 2014, 3(4), 693-705; doi:10.3390/laws3040693
Received: 26 June 2014 / Revised: 11 September 2014 / Accepted: 22 September 2014 / Published: 13 October 2014
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Abstract
Over the last 40 years a number of scholars have called upon fellow criminologists to rethink the field’s priorities and methods, as well as the American criminal justice system and current punishment practices. Drawing on alternative criminologies, including constitutive and peacemaking criminologies, [...] Read more.
Over the last 40 years a number of scholars have called upon fellow criminologists to rethink the field’s priorities and methods, as well as the American criminal justice system and current punishment practices. Drawing on alternative criminologies, including constitutive and peacemaking criminologies, as well as the practice of reintegrative shaming, this paper presents a new model of criminal justice that combines aspects of adversarial, restorative, social, and transformative justice frameworks. The resulting “intersectional criminal justice” offers a holistic harm-reduction model that moves the focus of our criminal justice system away from “rough justice” and towards collective restorative healing and positive social change. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rough Justice: Penal Sanctions, Human Dignity, and Human Rights)

Review

Jump to: Research, Other

Open AccessReview The Study of Torture: Why It Persists, Why Perceptions of It are Malleable, and Why It is Difficult to Eradicate
Laws 2015, 4(1), 1-15; doi:10.3390/laws4010001
Received: 15 September 2014 / Accepted: 16 December 2014 / Published: 25 December 2014
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Abstract
Why does torture persist despite its prohibition? Scholars, policymakers, and the public have heavily debated this topic in the past decade. Yet, many puzzles remain about the practice of torture. Scholarship on torture spans academic disciplines, which adds diversity in perspectives brought [...] Read more.
Why does torture persist despite its prohibition? Scholars, policymakers, and the public have heavily debated this topic in the past decade. Yet, many puzzles remain about the practice of torture. Scholarship on torture spans academic disciplines, which adds diversity in perspectives brought to these questions but also can lead to redundancy and stunted progress in research on the issue as a whole. This article assesses the state of the multidisciplinary literature on torture in counterterrorism with specific focus on why democracies torture despite prohibiting it, how public perception of torture is malleable, and why so few countries are able to move from commitment to compliance in the prohibition of torture. In each section, the article also identifies underexplored areas in the research and suggests avenues for future investigation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rough Justice: Penal Sanctions, Human Dignity, and Human Rights)

Other

Jump to: Research, Review

Open AccessEssay The Death Penalty and Human Dignity: An Existential Fallacy
Laws 2016, 5(2), 25; doi:10.3390/laws5020025
Received: 28 February 2016 / Revised: 30 April 2016 / Accepted: 30 May 2016 / Published: 2 June 2016
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Abstract
Proponents of capital punishment in the United States frequently cite the evolution from electrocution and hanging to lethal injection as an indication that the evolving standards of decency exhibited by such a transition demonstrate a respect for human dignity. This essay examines [...] Read more.
Proponents of capital punishment in the United States frequently cite the evolution from electrocution and hanging to lethal injection as an indication that the evolving standards of decency exhibited by such a transition demonstrate a respect for human dignity. This essay examines that claim by evaluating two standards for assessing whether an act comports with accepted definitions of human dignity: a personal-achievement model, based on work by economist Amartya Sen of Harvard University, and a universal and intrinsic approach to human dignity articulated by criminologist Robert Johnson of the American University. We evaluate Sen’s capabilities model through the lens of a condemned prisoner’s ability to achieve self-defined goals. We then assess Johnson’s claim that preserving human dignity requires an elimination of the death penalty, irrespective of any prisoner’s ability to lead a restricted, albeit goal-directed, existence. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rough Justice: Penal Sanctions, Human Dignity, and Human Rights)

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