This week Pepperdine University will hold a conference on the thought of James Q. Wilson, and I will present a paper called “Wilson’s Machiavellian Cruelty”. The first half of the paper argues that Wilson’s failure to acknowledge that punishment is cruel led him – and those of us who followed him – into avoidable errors. The second half tries to construct a crime control strategy to keep crime rates moving down while reversing the disastrous move toward mass incarceration.
A central problem is the paradox of punishment pointed out by Plato and (more pithily) by George Bernard Shaw:
Punishment requires injury.
Reformation requires improvement.
Injury does not improve.
I would appreciate comments from those with expert knowledge on the relevant topics.