CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Aviram on Structural Inequality and Individual Intent in Reform

Hadar Aviram (University of California, Hastings College of the Law) has posted What Were 'They' Thinking, and Does It Matter? Structural Inequality and Individual Intent in Criminal Justice Reform (Law and Social Inquiry, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
In Visions of Social Control (1985) Stanley Cohen provided a typology of scholarly works on the punitive turn: “uneven progress”, “good intentions-disastrous consequences”, and “discipline and mystification.” This essay applies these categories to recent punishment and society scholarship, finding a clear preference for the third category, arguing that current works do not merely point to systemic evils—they impute bad intent to individuals in the system. Against this current, I identify two works—James Forman’s Locking Up Our Own (2017) and Heather Schoenfeld’s Building the Prison State (2016)—and show the strengths of analyses that take individual actors on their own terms. Finally, relying on the recent example of the Ban-the-Box policy—a well-intended but failed policy—I argue that flexibility in viewing actors’ motivations, rather than relegating them to the role of cogs in a system fraught by inherent flaws, is important not only for scholarly accuracy but for policy and strategic reasons.

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