Volume 9 SPRING/SUMMER 2002 Numbers 1/2

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About the Contributors

Preface: Crime and Punishment
Robert S. Frey, M.A., Editor/Publisher, BRIDGES


America as a Killing State: On the Persistence of Capital Punishment in the United States
Austin Sarat
Law, Jurisprudence & Social Thought
Political Science
Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts (USA)

Choice Theory, Utilitarianism, and Criminal Punishment
James W. Skeen
Florida (USA)

The Two Infinites
Steven Carter
California State University, Bakersfield (USA)

How to Reform a Serial Killer: The Buddhist Approach to Restorative Justice
David R. Loy
Professor, Faculty of International Studies
Bunkyo University (Japan)


Richard Bauckham, ed., God Will Be All in All: The Eschatology of Jürgen Moltmann
Art Spring

Anthony Cunningham, The Heart of What Matter: The Role for Literature in Moral Philosophy
Pauline Kaurin

Daniel S. Greenberg, Science, Money, and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion
Richard Isaacman

Lewis E. Hahn, A Contextualistic Worldview
Andrea Croce Birch

Suzanne Holland, Karen Lebacqz, and Laurie Zoloth, eds. The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate: Science, Ethics, and Public Policy
Ingrid Shafer

Juan J. Linz, Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes
Dovile Budryte

Daniel C. Maguire, Sacred Choices: The Right to Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions
Michael Gorman

John Polkinghorne and Michael Welker, Faith in the Living God: A Dialogue
Rosamond Kilmer Spring

Jean Vanier, Made for Happiness: Discovering the Meaning of Life with Aristotle
Art Spring

Edward D. Zinbarg, Faith, Morals, and Money: What the World's Religions Tell Us About Ethics in the Marketplace
Rosamond Kilmer Spring



Austin Sarat

What does the persistence of capital punishment mean for American law, politics, and culture? What impulses does state killing nurture in this nation's responses to grievous wrongs? What demands does it place on our legal institutions? How is the death penalty represented in our culture? This essay takes up these questions and argues that state killing damages America, calling into question the extent of the difference between state killing and the killing which everyone would like to stop, and in the process weakening not strengthening democratic political institutions. It leaves America in an angrier, less compassionate, more intolerant condition, more rather than less divided, further from, not closer to, solutions to our most pressing problems. While ending state killing would not be a cure in and of itself, doing so would allow Americans to focus more clearly on the task of dealing with those issues.

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James W. Skeen

There are many issues that must be considered when operating, or evaluating, a society. How, and how well a society accomplishes the task of providing for the welfare of its people tells us much about that society, or at least its ruling class. The issue considered in this paper is criminal punishment. How does a society deal with those who break its laws? What are the grounds upon which it makes its punishment, or no-punishment, decisions? Are these decisions pursued with only the offended in mind, or do they also consider the offender?

The utilitarian mindset of many who operate our criminal justice system is analyzed. Nigel Walker's book, Why Punish? is critiqued. Walker has a utilitarian mindset toward criminal punishment. The dangers of utilitarian decision-making are explored. It is argued that a theory of natural rights and natural justice needs to undergird all systems of legal punishment. One of the main components in a theory of natural rights and natural justice is a view of human nature. Choice theory is introduced as a valuable contributor to our understanding of human nature. The issue of how a people deals with those who offend and violate the law tells much about that people. Are they so focused on their own safety that rage and revenge infiltrate their utilitarian, deterrence-based decisions or are they concerned about doing right to both the offended and the offender. A good society requires a punishment system founded on the natural rights of individuals. Utilitarianism, at least Walkers' variety, is a threat to the making of a good society and cannot be trusted to guard natural human interests.

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David R. Loy

This article considers how Buddhist perspectives on crime and punishment support the contemporary movement toward restorative (in place of retributive) justice. It begins by examining the two Pali suttas that most directly address these issues: the Angulimala Sutta, about the reform of a serial killer, and the Lion's Roar Sutta, about the responsibility of a ruler. Then it looks at the Vinaya, which has many implications for our understanding of motivation and reform, and finally at traditional Tibet to see how its criminal justice system embodied these Buddhist perspectives. It concludes with some reflections on why our present criminal justice systems serve the purposes of the state better than the needs of offenders and their victims.

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