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The Politics of ImprisonmentHow the Democratic Process Shapes the Way America Punishes Offenders$
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Vanessa Barker

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195370027

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195370027.001.0001

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Democratic Governance, Social Trust, and Penal Order

Democratic Governance, Social Trust, and Penal Order

(p.169) 6 Democratic Governance, Social Trust, and Penal Order
The Politics of Imprisonment

Vanessa Barker (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter summarizes the key findings of the study and points to theoretical, empirical, and public policy implications. It highlights the role of civic engagement, social trust, the resiliency of path dependencies, black incorporation, and crime control discourse rooted in particular places as key explanatory factors in American penal sanctioning. The research shows that higher levels of civic engagement tend to support milder punishments whereas lower levels tend to support more coercive criminal justice policies. Contrary to conventional policy proscriptions, this chapter argues that the public needs to be more, not less, involved in penal reform as public support is necessary for the legitimacy of state action and is especially critical in policy areas fraught with moral and emotional dilemmas. Crime and punishment raise unresolved moral questions about pain, suffering, the value of human life, justice, safety, and security. These questions should be resolved through a democratic process, and specifically a deliberative democratic process.

Keywords:   civic engagement, social trust, inclusion, exclusion, crime control, locality, path dependencies, public policy, racial politics

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