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MetamorphosisHow to Transform Punishment in America$
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Robert A. Ferguson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780300230833

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300230833.001.0001

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What Is Punishment For?

What Is Punishment For?

(p.181) 9 What Is Punishment For?

Robert A. Ferguson

Yale University Press

This chapter discusses how Gresham Sykes, a pioneer in criminology, recognized most of what was wrong with the language of punishment. Many applauded his insights, and his book The Society of Captives (1958) became a classic on prison culture. Sykes exposed a language of punishment that did not reach the punished. Three glib theoretical terms—retribution, deterrence, and rehabilitation—gave a beguiling neatness and simplicity to theories of incarceration. But “this three-pronged aim” existed in such conflict with itself that it could not answer the crucial question of whether the convicted is placed in prison for punishment, or as punishment. Instead of answering that question, the three prongs held the distinction permanently aloft.

Keywords:   punishment, criminology, Gresham Sykes, The Society of Captives, prison culture, retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, convicted

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