Perp Walks as Punishment

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (3):615-629 (2015)
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When Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then head of the IMF, was arrested on charges of sexual assault arising from events that were alleged to have occurred during his stay in an up-market hotel in New York, a sizeable portion of French public opinion was outraged - not by the possibility that a well-connected and widely-admired politician had assaulted an immigrant hotel worker, but by the way in which the accused had been treated by the American authorities. I shall argue that in one relatively minor respect, Strauss-Kahn’s defenders were correct. They were correct to argue that the parading of Strauss-Kahn before the press, in handcuffs - the so-called perp walk - constituted a form of punishment; and thus that it contravened the principle that criminal punishments should only be administered after a fair trial. So-called ‘expressive’ theorists of punishment hold that a form of harsh treatment can only constitute a form of punishment if it has an expressive role. Within the expressive family, we can distinguish between views on which the primary target of the communication to be the society of which either offender, or victim, or both are members—what I call ‘Denunciatory Views’, and views which take the principle target of penal communication to be the offender—such as Antony Duff’s Communicative View. I shall argue that on both a minimal account of punishment and on either kind of expressive view, ‘perp walks’ are a form of punishment
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