The questions in this course all paralleled to one another and the readings worked off of each other. The modules started at a base point and slowly developed further. Module 1 focused on what are permissible ends of criminalization. This module covered the harm principle, the offense principle, and the sovereignty principle. These three principles all attempt to limit the amount of harm and suffering caused to people by creating criminal laws. In module 2, the question focused on what means can we permissibly take to achieve permissable ends. This focused on the identification principle, which helps focus on the idea of using criminal law to achieve these permissible ends that were covered in module 1. Our class evolved then into module 3, we focused on what features something must have before we can achieve these ends and criminalize it. The focus of this section was mens rea and actus reus, two very important points of criminal law. Mens Rea translates to a guilty mind whereas actus reus translates to a guilty act. In order for an act to be criminal, it must have a guilty act present and a guilty mind accompanying that act. In module 4, we continued into when should people be held responsible for criminal behavior. Once we have distinguished in module 3 what is considered criminal behavior, we began in module 4 deciding when it is permissible to hold people responsible. The focus of these were the moral luck of situations- if one is morally lucky in the situation in which they were put in, do they deserve the same punishment? If someone accidentally doesn’t kill their target but had the intention to, are they still responsible? Furthermore, we focused on excuses and justifications of crime. If someone is in self defense, are they responsible for the murder? And lastly, what is the social responsibility of crime? Are people socially responsible for avoiding crime because they are part of society? Once we take into consideration whether people should be responsible for different types of crime, we move into module 5. Module 5 focuses on what ends we can achieve by punishing those responsible for criminal behavior? This divides into two parts, consequentialist and nonconsequentialist punishment. Consequentialists believe that it is best to advocate towards preventing crime in the future by deterring it through future laws and reforming offenders through rehabilitation. They believe that the burden of punishment is “evil” according to Bentham and does not help anyone. Nonconsequentialists, also known as retributivists, believe that punishment is necessary to punish wrongdoing. This is typically seen as some sort of eye for an eye. It focuses on the actual action and not its consequences, and how the action itself is right or wrong and that is how it should be punished. Lastly, we went into module 6 which tied everything together with the question: when do we punish the deserving? Once we have determined what is punishable, how it should be punished, when it is deserving of punishment and all is final- we must discover when they should be punished if they are determined to be worthy of punishment. The main points of this module included desert and punishment as well as mercy and punishment. Desert and punishment works to identify what punishment is deserved. Mercy and punishment works to identify when we should forgive or pardon those for their crime.
The structure of this course is very accurately positioned to start from the beginning and give us an outline of crime and justice. This course included in depth readings with accompanied writings that allowed us to look into these writings while also looking at the big picture. This course provided an amazing opportunity to learn the most important philosophical points of crime and justice. How do we look at crime and distinguish how justice plays a role in the criminal system. Every single module hangs together and by taking this course I was able to connect the many components of what crime is and what justice is.