Vaughn approaches to punishment, demonstrating the strengths of

VaughnSayersPHM3400ProfessorBuchwalter 12/01/17 A Practical Approach to the Moral Education Theory ofPunishment Theconception of punishment is an ever-changing principle, reflecting society’sinherent need to maintain social order. When evaluating punishment, it isnecessary to understand its implications on both social outcomes and the expectationsit creates for those labeled criminals. Through both the deterrence andretributive approaches to punishment individuals are provided with the toolsnecessary to engage with the abstract concept of punishment, aiding in itsattempted implementation within practical legal systems. However, through study,academics and legal officials are able to formulate specific interpretations thatresolve shortcomings which are found within the deterrence and retributivetheories of punishment. Through Jean Hampton’s Moral Education theory, I willassess the apparent discrepancies found within both the deterrence andretributive approaches to punishment, demonstrating the strengths of Hampton’stheory.

However, through the intention of applying the Moral Education theory toour practical legal systems, its weaknesses are apparent, resulting incomplications that are subject to criticisms by Russ Shafer-Landau. Shafer-Landau’scriticisms will serve as a means to understand the Moral Education theory’s weaknesseswhen applied to incarceration: our primary form of punishment. Through this evaluation,I will align my position with Landau, and suggest that there needs to be a formof education, during incarceration, as incarceration is an inadequate tool toinstigate moral communication. I will conclude by suggesting that this educativetool lies in the questions prompted by Spiritual psychologists. They will providea criminal with the tools to deliberate the moral significance of their actions,as well as aid in lowering rates of recidivism.

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HamptonsMoral Education theory of punishment emphasizes the importance of a criminals understandingof their moral wrongdoing. It is a theory intended to utilize punishment as an educativetool, rather than a means to utilize pain as a coercive tactic resulting in rightaction. According to Hampton, punishments are “electric fences” or moral boundariesthat, when crossed, result in pain serving as a deterrence promoting moral reflection(Hampton, 276). Through this deliberative process a criminal is able tounderstand the reasons why his actions are morally impermissible and decide, withfull autonomy, to act in line with the law. Therefore, Hamptons theory ofpunishment is done for the criminal not too the criminal as a means to a largersocietal end, “Other desirable social goals will be achieved through hispunishment, goals which include the education of the larger community about theimmorality of the offense, but none of these ends is to be achieved at theexpense of the criminal” (277). Punishment serves as an internal dialoguewithin the criminal, allowing for a comprehension of the negative moralimplications of their actions as well as providing a means to understand thereason behind the existence of these punishments. The Moral Education theory isoriented around an offender’s ability to avoid punishment because of itsrelationship with morality, rather than the pain that is associated with thepunishment (276). This is because pain in itself holds no moral importance toHampton, only when it is employed as an educative tool does it initiate the moralreflection needed to understand the wrongness of actions against the law.

  Therefore, it is an individual’s ability tochoose to not act contrary towards the law, out of an understanding for its moralsignificance, that results in right action according to Hampton.TheMoral Education theory serves as an alternative interpretation, demonstratingthe apparent flaws within traditional conceptions of punishment. For instance,the utilitarian deterrence approach to punishment does not focus on educatingan individual criminal, but utilizes the pain of punishment as a means to a furthera greater societal end (Brandt, 553).

However, treating society as an endrather than the criminal implicates a disregard for the individual person. If theend is to preserve and promote the maximum net utility of society thisdisregard of individual wellbeing is a slippery slope to the unjust treatmentof criminals, who should not be forsaken as they are sentient beings with moralsignificance. Even though punishments, when calculated within overall utility,are designed to balance severity and net utility this is an ambiguous conditionthat is easily exploited (554). Legal officials neither have the time nor thecapacity to create and employ an objective calculation system that isconsistent amongst a whole legal system.

It will vary amongst every person whoviews life and society as possessing different values of utility; this is impracticalin our diverse society. To reconcile this apparent flaw, the Moral Educationtheory provides an alternative form of punishment that prevents the exploitationof human beings. By employing modes of punishment that allow for individual autonomy,criminals are not coerced into performing right action, but are able to acknowledgetheir wrong action and choose to act in line with the law. Instead ofpunishment being used as a means to physically prevent an individual frombreaking the law punishment is an educative tool, teaching offenders the moral significanceof their actions. Unlikethe deterrence approach to punishment, retribution emphasizes the desert of acriminal, “The good that is achieved by punishing, in this view, has nothing todo with future states of affairs, such as the prevention of crime or the maintenanceof social cohesion.

” (Moore, 558). In this approach, the end is concerned withthe criminals not a larger societal goal, exacting the right punishment equalto that of the crime committed. The good achieved through punishment is thatsomeone deserving “gets it” (558). Retributivism is not concerned with a netutility, “retributivism is a species of objectivism in ethics that asserts thatthere is such a thing as desert and that the presence of such a real moralquality in a person justifies punishment of that person (558)” Therefore,criminals receive punishments based on the moral significance of the rule oflaw the offender has broken.

Even though acknowledging that a criminal possessesa “real moral quality” the retributive theory does not aim to educate acriminal of this inherent property. By only reprimanding, there is no moralcommunication that can lead an individual to reflect on his actions. Withoutthis deliberation, a criminal will be unable to comprehend the wrongness of hisor her actions. Through the Moral Education theory, the idea of punishment inrelation to the criminal is expanded upon and diverges from the, “metaphysicaltask of ‘negating the wrong’ and ‘reasserting the right'” (Hampton, 277).Hamptons endorsement of the Moral education theory stems from its goal orientedprinciple, which is to benefit the criminal. Right action can only be preventedwhen the offender is cognizant of why a punishment exists and for what reasonshis actions were wrong. Hampton’salternative theory of punishment is designed to, “maintain that punishment isjustified as a way to prevent wrongdoing insofar as it can teach bothwrongdoers and the public at large the moral reasons for choosing not toperform an offense” (Hampton 276).

However, this approach is based on acountries primary mode of punishment, which in the United States is incarceration.Based on studies conducted by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ),Recidivism or a person’s relapse into criminal behavior is still prevalent withinAmerica being 76.6 percent within five years upon release (NIJ). According tothe Moral Education theory of punishment, in American, being incarceration is atool to assist in a criminal’s ability to undergo moral deliberation andunderstand their breaking of the law results in morally impermissible action.

Through this deliberation, while incarcerated, Hamptons aim is for criminals to,”stop doing the immoral action by communicating to her that her offense wasimmoral” (Hampton, 277). However, according to the statistic provided by NIJthe rate of prisoners that stop breaking the law once initial punished onlyhave a success rate of 23.4 percent. This ineffective result serves as theplatform through which Russ Shafer-Landau argues that, “the punishment itself,incarceration, is simply insufficient to attain the educationalist’s goal (Shafer-Landau, 200).”           In section three of Shafer-Landau’sarticle “Can Punishment Morally Educate?” he questions the efficacy ofincarceration when applied to the moral education theory of punishment.

 According to Shafer-Landau, moral educationistsdo not fully commit themselves to incarceration as an effective form ofpunishment, however, incarceration is the primary method of punishment for ourcontemporary society (198). Alternative methods of punishment such as exile,shamming, and monetary retribution are not practical forms of punitive actionand are opposed to the educationist’s emphasis on the autonomy of a criminal (198).Faced with this dilemma Shafer-Landau suggests an alternative system ofpunishments being, “specially tailored to the characteristics of, and harmscaused by, each offender. Thus, we might require a rapist to work in a batteredwoman’s shelter, or an arsonist to work in a burn victim ward (198). However,this system is yet again too meticulous to be integrated as a primarypunishment.

Tailoring a punishment not only is unrealistic for a judge, withlimited time, but is problematic when applied to crimes such as tax evasion,counterfeit and trespassing as there are no means to tailor a morally relevantpunishment to such offences (199). Establishing incarceration as a primary formof punitive action, Shafer-Landau suggests that punishment is the setting wheremoral education can take place, not the education in itself. Therefore,education is needed to take place during the period of a criminal’sincarceration in order to accomplish the goals of educationist (200).

Basedon Shafer-Landau’s reasoning, it is my belief that during the period ofincarceration inmates should have regular meetings with spiritual psychologistswho promote the awareness of life’s essential questions such as, “Who am I?, Whyam I here?, and How can I make a more meaningful contribution in my world(University of Santa Monica)?” Criminals need assistance in understanding theirmoral significance, which will allow for the beginning stages of moraldeliberation. Hampton is presumptuous in assuming that an offender will havethe means to have an inner moral dialogue without outside assistance. Unlike regularpsychologist’s spiritual psychologists do not emphasize problems with theperson, but guide an individual’s thinking toward solutions.

These solutionsare what will determine the likelihood of a criminal to escape the cycle ofrecidivism. Even though this would go against the Moral Education theoriespositioning of punishment as the tool, spiritual psychology should beinterwoven as a daily practice during incarceration. Spiritual Psychology servesas a solution assisting the Moral Education theory of punishment inaccomplishing its goal of benefitting the criminal. By providing a means of supplementingour primary form of punishment in the United states (incarceration), spiritualpsychology allows for the experience of incarceration to serve the moralbenefit of the criminal and lowering rates of recidivism.     Works Cited Adams, David M.(2012). Philosophical Problems in the Law (5thed.).

Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing. Shafer-Landau,Russ. “Can Punishment Morally Educate?” Law and Philosophy, vol.

10, no. 2, 1991,pp. 189–219.

 JSTOR, JSTOR, “Recidivism.” National Institute of Justice,

  Hampton,Jean. The Moral Education Theory of Punishment.  Hulnick,H. Ronald. University of Santa Monica.

OnlineCouse: An Introduction to Spiritual Psychology.


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