The Individual and the Political Order: An Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy

By Norman E. Bowie; Robert L. Simon | Go to book overview
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Seven
LAW AND ORDER

Up to this point, our discussions have not included any consideration of how citizens who violate the laws of the state should be treated. Our efforts resemble a football coach who spends all his time constructing plays for the ideal game but who ignores questions of rule violations and inadequate performance on the playing field. If the theory of the state is to be complete, some attention must be paid to how a state ought to deal with citizens who violate its laws.

The legal apparatus of the state, particularly the penal institutions, have the responsibility for determining when violations of the law have occurred, for apprehending violators, and for taking measures that encourage both violators and nonviolators to obey the law. Recently, legal institutions in the United States have become highly controversial. The appropriate methods of apprehending criminals and the treatment of criminals have become items of considerable public concern. Charges of police brutality are a recurring phenomenon. Other questions have arisen concerning such practices as wiretapping, decoys to entrap potential criminals, and the use of police informers. Moreover, concerned citizens have focused on apparent injustices in our practices of punishment. The tragic results of prison rebellions and media exposes of conditions in prisons have raised serious questions about the purpose and organization of prisons.

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