Subject versus Object
The distinction between subject and object runs through the criminal law and provides a useful perspective on our conception of whom we are prosecuting and on what we are punishing for are prosecuting and on what we are punishing for.A subject is someone who acts, and an object is someone or something that is acted upon. Do we prosecute suspects and punish offenders as subjects or as objects? That question is never posed directly in the doctrines of the criminal law but it underlies many current disputes about defining and determining who is liable for crime.
To be protected in their dignity, human beings must be treated as subjects, not as objects. Immanuel Kant expressed this idea by interpreting the moral law to yield the following practical imperative: "So act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as a means only." 1 We may use objects as means; but we must respect human beings as subjects, as ends in themselves. One clear implication of Kant's prohibition against treating human beings as means to an end is the rejection of deterrence as a sufficient rationale for punishment. Punishment must respect the offender as an end in himself, as a responsible agent called to account for his wrongdoing.
Legal systems vary in the extent to which they show respect for offenders and suspected offenders as subjects rather than objects. One primary mode of expressing this respect is found in the rule that punishment is imposed only for human actions, that is, for the crimes com