I'm interested in how societies deal with criminals, and I was wondering where to start in understanding the contribution philosophers have made to this question. I'm particularly wanting to understand the moral questions (as distinct from practical or political considerations).

To what extent has this topic been developed as distinct from general moral philosophy? If it has, who are the major contributors? If not, what general moral philosphy resources would be most appropriate?


I'd recommend Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Michel Foucault is perhaps the most important modern critic of the prison as a social institution.

The work is a rigorous socio-historical analysis of the evolution of the modern prison system. He suggests, among other things, that there may be fundamental relationships between various 'disciplinary' institutions, like schools, churches and places of work, as well as prisons.

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