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Serving People from Arrest to Reintegration

Much Respect: Toward a Hip Hop Theory of Punishment

  • Organization: Stanford Law Review
  • Author: Paul Butler
  • Document Type: Article/News
  • Date Created: Thursday, April 01, 2004
  • Submitted: Wednesday, November 19, 2008
  • Attachment(s): PDF

This Article imagines the institution of punishment in the hip-hop nation. ... You understand criminal justice differently when the people that you love experience being "locked down all day, underground, neva seein' the sun/ Vision stripped from you, neva seein' your son. .The hip-hop theory of punishment acknowledges that when too many people are absent from their communities because they are being condemned by the government, prison may have unintended consequences. In the next Part, I discuss the relationship between popular culture and criminal law. I. Popular Culture and Criminal Law. I hope to demonstrate that the culture, while rebellious, can be used to inform a principled, rules-based theory of punishment. When popular culture presents prison as a rite of passage, punishment begins to lose its deterrent effect. This project is not intended to suggest that hip-hop culture has explicitly constructed a theory of punishment. Sixth, prison should be used sparingly as an instrument of punishment. This kind of warm acknowledgement of the incarcerated is commonplace in hip-hop, and virtually unheard of in other popular culture, which largely ignores the two million Americans in prison. ... The culture is not as quick as some scholars to label drug crimes "victimless."

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