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Parr Center Presents: Erin Kelly
November 6, 2019 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
“The Failure of Retributive Justice”
The belief that people convicted of crimes deserve punishment is commonplace. Yet the punitive conception of individual responsibility commonly associated with retributive justice exaggerates the moral meaning of criminal guilt, normalizes excessive punishment, and distracts from shared responsibility for social injustice. These problems with the retributive theory become clearer once we see that the retributive theory of criminal justice neglects the importance of the relationship between the practice of punishment and the broader requirements of social justice. Defenders of the retributive view do not relate the aims of the criminal justice system to a democratically just social order. Examining the importance of that relationship should lead us to reject retribution as the rationale for criminal punishment, at least in a society with democratic aspirations.
Erin Kelly is Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. She has a long-standing interest in the nature of moral reasoning and philosophical theories about it. She earned a B.A. in philosophy from Stanford University and a PhD from Harvard University. Her current work focuses on how matters of social justice should bear on our thinking about individual responsibility and our assessment of criminal justice institutions. She is author of The Limits of Blame: Rethinking Punishment and Responsibility (Harvard Univ. Press, 2018), which criticizes the role of blame in popular theories of criminal justice.