James Edwards

Bryn Horner
3 min readSep 17, 2020

Type 4

James Edwards begins his writing by speaking on the two types of laws: laws that are meant to be followed and laws that are meant to be broken. Laws that are meant to be broken, he states, are put into place by law enforcement unjustly in order to criminalize bad people who are difficult to criminalize elsewhere. Laws that are meant to be followed are put into place to prevent actual harmful and criminal acts. He starts by distinguishing the difference between the two. First, reasons and permissibility. He states that there are differences between the two, and that it is not permissible to do something unless it can not be outweighed by any reasons. Specifically, he says, “To make progress with the question of permissible criminalization, we must say something about both the reasons that count in its favour, and those that count against” (588). Second to distinguish between normative and motivating reasons. He described this by saying that “Though motivating reasons should always be normative reasons, normative reasons should not always be motivating” (588). Lastly he distinguishes between ends and means. Specifically, “ends are those things we seek to bring about for their own sake; means are the things we seek to bring about because bringing them about is a way of achieving (or making it more likely that we will achieve) our ends” (589). These, according to Edwards, seek out the means and ends for identifying things that lawmakers do when criminalizing.

Edwards also brings up the identification principle. This principle states that the rule of laws requires people that are subject to it to follow those guidelines of law and legal system. Also, it requires that state officials and institutions’ conduct is also subject to the law. Therefore, “Lawmakers who create LMBs violate that principle” (593). He carries on to describe pre-identification. The scenario he creates is the Constable. He uses the person p, and an officer to create a scenario. If the police officer came to the scene and decided that p was guilty with no reason, that would be a pre-identification, and would be unlawful. On the other hand, it is possible on the opposition that the officer does have a reason to suspect p, it is a lawful arrest. However, if p was suspected beforehand without reason, it means that “p is treated by the state not as a protectee but as a target” (594). This means that without grounds of doubt, the citizen is already seen as a criminal before they have the chance to prove themselves.

This scenario parallels exactly to the Black Lives Matter movement that is happening right before our eyes. In the Constable, p could resemble a black man or woman in present day America. Currently, black people have been treated unfairly by the criminal justice system and the police force. For example, the Central Park 5. The Central Park 5 were a group of young teenage black boys who went out for a night to have fun. Coincidentally, a white woman was raped and assaulted while running alone on that same night. Because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time, and had a different skin tone, they were immediately suspected of being criminals. They had no idea of the crime, were not a part of it, and did not commit it. But, because of the pre-identification that the officers had and the unreasonable grounds, they somehow were detained. Not only were they arrested, but they were brutally interrogated, manipulated, and coerced to lie. This ties into the text because it shows that although police officers are entitled to follow the law, they break the law by criminalizing people they preconceive to be dangerous for no reason.