Criminal Justice and the Liberal Polity

Criminal Justice Ethics 30 (2):173-191 (2011)

Abstract

There are several reasonable conceptions of liberalism. A liberal polity can survive a measure of disagreement over just what constitutes liberalism. In part, this is because of the way a liberal order makes possible a dynamic, heterogeneous civil society and how that, in turn, can supply participants with reasons to support a liberal political order. Despite the different conceptions of justice associated with different conceptions of liberalism, there are reasons to distinguish the normative focus of criminal justice from other aspects of justice in a liberal polity. Given the fundamental commitments of liberalism?of whatever variant?there are reasons for criminal justice not to be assimilated to wider conceptions of justice overall. Such assimilation risks undermining some of liberalism's distinctive commitments concerning the standing of individuals as voluntary, responsible agents. Criminal justice is not independent of other aspects of justice but has a distinct focus in a liberal polity

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Jonathan A. Jacobs
CUNY Graduate Center

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