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C.S. Lewis on how the humanitarian theory of punishment threatens liberty

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Over the past decade conservatives have, once again, become champions of criminal justice reform. To some this appears to be a surprising development. Why would conservatives, the self-proclaimed champions of law and order, have concern for the treatment of criminals?

On reflection, though, the interest and connection becomes more obvious. Conservatives are concerned with how law and order leads to human flourishing, and so are necessarily troubled by a criminal justice system that is neither just nor serves the interest of public order.

Certain modern approaches to criminal justice can even be a threat to general liberty. For example, as C.S. Lewis argues in this essay, the humanitarian theory of punishment deprives a person of the “rights of a human being.” And when deterrence is the sole goal of the system then even the punishment of the innocent is warranted since it can have a deterrent effect.

 

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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