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KCrim: Michaelmas Hearings - Professor Ekow Yankah (Cardozo) - 'Punishing the Polity'

Somerset House East Wing, Strand Campus, London

26 Sep
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Part of KCrim: Michaelmas Hearings

The Dickson Poon School of Law presents the Kcrim: Michaelmas Hearings with Professor Ekow Yankah, Cardozo Law School, Yeshiva University. 


The piece returns to my earlier challenges of retributivism as the basis of contemporary criminal law advancing my work on Aristotelian republican political justifications which make central the effect of punishment on citizenship. In short, the justification of punishment should eschew individual retributivist “desert” and focus primarily on the effects of punishment on the entire polity. In particular, this would mean that the effects of mass incarceration would be explicitly a part of justification of punishment. Concretized, members of communities where widespread punishment (incarceration) has damaged civic health should explicitly receive discounts on otherwise retributively justified punishment. Most obviously, a regime focused on the effect of punishment on civic bonds would explicitly target the vast racial disparities in contemporary punishment regimes, grounding an explicit claim that an African-American or Hispanic defendant from overly punished communities should be punished less and requiring other state resources to secure the safety of the community. While critical, this regime is not solely aimed at racial disparities. This principle would be equally address the concentration of punishment in poor, white communities often battered by punishment and policing. Thus, the policy shows a way of building allies across racial lines.

Amongst its programme of activities, KCrim convenes the Michaelmas Hearings, which bring together some of today's leading criminal law thinkers to discuss current legal issues affecting the United Kingdom, Europe, and the rest of the world. Each year, our speakers are expected to offer up for discussion some real problems in the theory and application of the criminal law, broadly understood. 

Potential attendees of the Michaelmas Hearings should bear in mind that we shall generally commence substantive conversation as quickly as possible, without allowing much by way of presentation from the guest. Reading the paper in advance is, therefore, generally a prerequisite.

Papers are distributed after registration.

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