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The Oxford Textbook on Criminology

The Oxford Textbook on Criminology (2nd edn)

Steve Case, Phil Johnson, David Manlow, Roger Smith, and Kate Williams
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date: 02 July 2022

p. 928p. 92931. Critical perspectives on punishmentlocked

p. 928p. 92931. Critical perspectives on punishmentlocked

  • Steve Case,
  • Phil Johnson,
  • David Manlow,
  • Roger Smith
  •  and Kate Williams

Abstract

This chapter details a range of perspectives which effectively question the underlying assumptions behind the concept of ‘punishment’. This represents a shift in emphasis from the system ‘as it is’ to a critical evaluation of its social and ideological foundations, along with some ideas about how it might be different if we follow through the implications of these critical arguments. The chapter explores ideas about the use of punishment as a vehicle for maintaining the dominance of particular interests within society, and using it to exert social control. Implicated in this is the suggestion that claims of legitimacy, fairness, and justice must be called into question, especially in light of the evidence of the unequal treatment of certain groups, such as members of the black and minority ethnic communities. Critical perspectives also invite us to consider why some forms of behaviour, such as corporate negligence and tax fraud, appear to be much less heavily penalised (if at all) than crimes more typically associated with other groups and communities, such as benefit fraud or drug offences.

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