Geography and Justice: Why Prison Location Matters in U.S. and International Theories of Criminal Punishment

By Koh, Steven Arrigg | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, November 2013 | Go to article overview

Geography and Justice: Why Prison Location Matters in U.S. and International Theories of Criminal Punishment


Koh, Steven Arrigg, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


ABSTRACT

This Article is the first to analyze prison location and its relationship to U.S. and international theories of criminal punishment. Strangely, scholarly literature overlooks criminal prison designation procedures--the procedures by which a court or other institution designates the prison facility in which a recently convicted individual is to serve his or her sentence. This Article identifies this gap in the literature--the prison location omission--and fills it from three different vantage points: (1) U.S. procedural provisions governing prison designation; (2) international procedural provisions governing prison designation; and (3) the relationship between imprisonment and broader theories of criminal punishment. Through comparison of U.S. and international prison designation systems, this Article argues that prison location materially advances core rationales of criminal punishment.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION

   A. The Prison Location Omission in Current
      Scholarship
   B. The Benefit of International Comparison

II. THE U.S. PRISON DESIGNATION PARADIGM

   A. Prison Designation Procedures in the
      U.S. Federal System

      1. Statutory Framework
      2. Designation Practice of the BOP

   B. Analysis: The U.S. Prison Designation
      Paradigm

III. THE INTERNATIONAL PRISON DESIGNATION
PARADIGM

   A. The International Criminal Tribunals:
      A Brief Overview
   B. Prison Designation Procedures of the ICC,
      ICTY, and ICTR

      1. Sentencing Designation Procedures of
         the ICC
      2. Sentencing Designation Procedures of
         the ICTY
      3. Sentencing Designation Procedures of
         the ICTR

   C. Analysis: The International Prison
      Designation Paradigm

IV. COMPARISON OF V.S. AND INTERNATIONAL PRISON
DESIGNATION PARADIGMS

V. WHY PRISON LOCATION MATTERS IN THEORIES
OF CRIMINAL PUNISHMENT

    A. Deterrence
    B. Retribution
    C. Incapacitation
    D. Rehabilitation
    E. Victim-Related Rationales
    F. Transitional Justice

VI. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

Sentencing constitutes the backbone of criminal justice, the culmination of criminal adjudication. (1) Indeed, the criminal justice system inflicts pain--in the form of deprivation of life, liberty, or property--on those convicted of criminal conduct. (2) Where a prisoner serves time often crucially determines how much of a deprivation he or she will suffer, yet academic literature has neglected this crucial sentencing component. (3) Indeed, scholars have never systematically reviewed prison designation procedures--the procedures by which a court or other institution designates the prison facility in which a convict will serve his or her sentence--at the state, federal, or international levels. Furthermore, commentators have failed to analyze how prison location advances the broader goals of criminal justice--deterrence, retribution, incapacitation, and rehabilitation--as well as emerging theories of victim-related "restorative justice" and "transitional justice." Regrettably, most scholarship singularly focuses on prison duration as the defining aspect of a sentence, although prison location may be as, if not more, important to the retributive or deterrent effect of a sentence. For example, had Osama bin Laden been captured, convicted of crimes, and sentenced to a term of imprisonment, it would have undoubtedly mattered whether he served his time in New York, The Hague, Saudi Arabia, or elsewhere.

This Article contends that prison location itself endows a sentence with additional meaning that in turn advances overarching theories of criminal punishment, such as deterrence to the individual and the community, incapacitation of the offender, and the provision of justice to victims. The Article reviews both U.S. federal and international prison designation procedures and then compares the essential features of these U.S. and international prison designation paradigms in an effort to contribute to criminal law theory, American criminal legal studies, and international criminal legal studies.

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