Ethics of Imprisonment Essays in Criminal Justice Ethics

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Abstract: This licentiate thesis consists of three essays which all concern the ethics of imprisonment and what constitutes an ethically defensible treatment of criminal offenders.Paper 1 defends the claim that prisoners have a right to privacy. I argue that the right to privacy is important because of its connection to moral agency. For that reasons is the protection of inmates’ right to privacy also warranted by different established philosophical theories about the justification of legal punishment. I discuss the practical implications of this argument. Ultimately I argue the invasion of privacy should be minimized to the greatest extent possible without compromising other important values and rights to safety and security. In defending this position, I argue that respect for inmates’ privacy should be part of the objective of creating and upholding a secure environment to better effect in the long run.Paper 2 discusses whether the collateral harm of imprisonment to the close family members and children of prison inmates may give rise to special moral obligations towards them. Several collateral harms, including decreased psychological wellbeing, financial costs, loss of economic opportunities, and intrusion and control over their private lives, are identified. Two competing perspectives in moral philosophy are applied in order to assess whether the harms are permissible. The first is consequentialist and the second is deontological, and it is argued that both of them fails and therefore it is hard to defend the position that allowing for these harms would be morally permissible, even for the sake of the overall aims of incarceration. Instead, it is argued that these harms imply that imprisonment should only be used as a last resort. Where it is necessary, imprisonment should give rise to special moral obligations towards families of prisoners. Using the notion of residual obligation, these obligations are defended, categorized and clarified.Paper 3 evaluates electronic monitoring (EM) from an ethical perspective and discusses whether it could be a promising alternative to imprisonment as a criminal sanction for a series of criminal offenses. EM evaluated from an ethical perspective as six initial ethical challenges are addressed and discussed. It is argued that since EM is developing as a technology and a punitive means, it is urgent to discuss its ethical implications and incorporate moral values into its design and development.