Beware of Prosecutors Bearing Gifts: How the Ancient Greeks Can Help Cure Our Addiction to Excessive Punishment

In Matthew C. Altman (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook on the Philosophy of Punishment. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 377-393 (2022)
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This chapter argues that the approach to punishment the U.S.—in particular, how it is determined what punishments are appropriate for which crimes—not only fails to achieve justice, but also drives much of the dysfunction in the U.S. criminal justice system. We then compare this system of punishment to the approach to trial and punishment used in ancient Athens and explain why this approach to punishment would lead to more trials and more just outcomes. The concern, however, is that using this—or any—approach to punishment that leads to more trials seems as if it might cripple the U.S. justice system. We argue that this concern is unfounded and should not stand in the way of procedures that would likely produce more just results.



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Chris W. Surprenant
University of New Orleans

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