Philosophy and Incarceration
Global Perspectives, Moral Dilemmas, and Philosophy as a Vehicle for Reform

Speaker : Lauren Lyons (Sewanee: University of the South)

Date : 12 Apr 2017 6:30 pm

Venue : Southern Cross Bar, 39 Abel Smith St.

With prison populations soaring globally, incarceration has become one of the most pressing social issues of the 21st century. This talk seeks to explore the philosophical dimensions of penal practices, focusing specifically on the philosophically dubious elements of corrections paradigms and the potential of philosophy as a tool for illuminating these issues. Having spent eight months exploring the philosophical dimensions of three distinct prison systems– in Norway, South Africa, and New Zealand– I will ground my discussion of the philosophical dilemmas facing prison systems in a series of real-world examples. The talk will act as a sort of survey of these problems, including discussion of the value of retribution, the limits of ethical practices in prisons, the unstable ontologies underlying our concepts of crime and punishment, questions of blame and moral responsibility, the issue of privatization, and the intersection of race, class, and gender central to reality of penal practices in many contexts. I close by turning the issue on its head and considering the potential benefits of offering education in philosophy in prisons and finally by gesturing to broader issues regarding philosophy and public policy and institutional confines for using the discipline as a vehicle for social reform.