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About this unit

Administering criminal justice is one of the most coercive things a state can do to its own citizens. Yet in societies that are committed to the principles of liberty and democracy, the state claims that its administration of criminal justice -- from determining which behaviors count as criminal, to enforcing these criminal laws, to carrying out the punishment of convicted offenders, and beyond -- is all done in our interest, and with our consent. What assumptions about justice, punishment, and the relationship between criminal responsibility and everyday moral responsibility are used to defend these claims, and are those assumptions sound? In this unit, we interrogate the philosophical assumptions and arguments that underlie the workings of the criminal justice system at key points in its process.