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August 25, 2008

"Happiness and Punishment"

This title of this post is the title of this intriguing new article available via SSRN.  The piece comes from Professors John Bronsteen, Christopher Buccafusco and Jonathan Masur, and here is the abstract:

This article continues our project to apply groundbreaking new literature on the behavioral psychology of human happiness to some of the most deeply analyzed questions in law. Here we explain that the new psychological understandings of happiness interact in startling ways with the leading theories of criminal punishment.  Punishment theorists, both retributivist and utilitarian, have failed to account for human beings' ability to adapt to changed circumstances, including fines and (surprisingly) imprisonment.  At the same time, these theorists have largely ignored the severe hedonic losses brought about by the post-prison social and economic deprivations (unemployment, divorce, and disease) caused by even short periods of incarceration. These twin phenomena significantly disrupt efforts to attain proportionality between crime and punishment and to achieve effective marginal deterrence.  Hedonic psychology thus threatens to upend conventional conceptions of punishment and requires retributivists and utilitarians to find novel methods of calibrating traditional punitive sanctions if they are to maintain the foundations upon which punishment theory rests.

August 25, 2008 at 04:34 PM | Permalink


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Tracked on Sep 30, 2008 4:50:16 AM


Many consequences of incarceration are over-looked in post prison social and economic deprivations (unemployment, divorce, and disease) and the loss of a sense of community and the break-down of the American family, with the loss of a role model, and social stigma. The time spent away from the community and family is more than just hours on the clock, time away from children is the lost birthdays, holidays, Christmas's, the lost moments of your life that are irreplaceable. Sort of like a closing argument? Yours in the Defense of Fellow Human Beings,
Glen R. Graham, Tulsa Criminal Defense Attorney, Oklahoma.

Posted by: Glen R. Graham | Aug 26, 2008 11:29:43 PM

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