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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

This Article explores the relationship between two normative systems in modern society: “cancel culture” and criminal justice. It argues that cancel culture—a ubiquitous phenomenon in contemporary life—may rectify deficiencies of over- and under-enforcement in the U.S. criminal justice system. However, the downsides of cancel culture’s structure—imprecise factfinding, potentially disproportionate sanctions leading to collateral consequences, a “thin” conception of the wrongdoer as beyond rehabilitation, and a broader cultural anxiety that “chills” certain human conduct—reflect problematic U.S. punitive impulses that characterize our era of mass incarceration. This Article thus argues that social media reform proposals obscure a deeper necessity: transcendence of blame through criminal justice reform and, ultimately, collective emphasis on reintegration after human wrongdoing.

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