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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

In this article, Professor Kennedy examines the tremendous increase in the severity of punishment in America in recent decades. He posits that criminal punishment has come to serve as a new civic religion of sorts for a society worried about its ability to cohere. The depth of our anxieties about our social solidarity, Kennedy argues, expresses itself in our monstrous conceptions of crime and in the corresponding severity of our punishment. His conclusion is that crime has come to serve as a rallying cry for a divided and insecure society, and that individuals and groups try to use punishment and the criminal justice system to send symbolic messages defining core values.

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