Date of Award

12-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Philosophy

Supervisor

W.J. Waluchow

Language

English

Abstract

Many of the arguments surrounding the privatization of prisons are based on pragmatic considerations, while others are based on more controversial moral principles. It is the latter type of argument, which focuses on the legitimacy of private prisons that I am interested in exploring in this thesis. Given the number of practical problems associated with these types of facilities, (i.e. mismanagement, abuse of inmates) establishing that there is something in principle problematic with this delegation of state power would make for a much stronger case.
It appears that most theorists, who are that private prisons are illegitimate, do not establish a strong line of argument. Rather, they simply state that it is offensive to public interests to have profit considerations mix with criminal punishment, or that this is a government power that ought not be delegated or, last but not least, some claim that such a practice weakens the moral integrity of society. The problem with each of these arguments is that their authors tend to state the point, rather than provide a sophisticated philosophical argument for their claims.
In a recent paper by Alon Harel entitled, "Why Only the State May Inflict Criminal Sanctions: The Case Against Privately Inflicted Sanctions," we are given a more sophisticated argument against the privatization of prisons. HareI's argument employs an "Integrationist Justification" of punishment. This thesis is a response to his paper and I argue that despite some of the intuitively appealing premises upon which Harel's argument is based, he fails to show that in principle, private prisons are problematic. Although, I determine that from an integrationist perspective it is likely that these facilities are problematic in practice.

McMaster University Library

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