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Catholic Social Science Review

Volume 14, 2009

Alfred R. D’Anca
Pages 217-243

A Different Promise: Catholic Social Thought and Criminal Punishment in America

Punishment as a response to deviant and criminal behavior is ubiquitous and multi-dimensional in nature. Retribution as a dominant philosophical rationale governs the imposition of criminal punishment in contemporary American society. There is a need to understand punishment in terms of what it symbolizes. This article proposes an approach that integrates critical insights of social theory and the principles of Catholic social thought to understand the meaning of punishment. Themes of power relations, person, and order reveal not only deeper dimensions of meaning, but contradictions inherent in current systemic penal practices and insight into changing trends as bases for policy initiatives.

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