Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal


Hadar Aviram


Criminological accounts of penological discourse in the United States often focus on the transition to more punitive policies beginning in the late 1970s, which led the U.S. to top international charts of incarceration rates per capita. However, recent developments in punitive policies and practices suggest a reversal of the punitive pendulum. This article maps these developments, arguing that they represent the emergence of a new correctional discourse, called humonetarianism, which focuses on scarcity of resources and on cost-benefit analysis as its main raison d'être.

This article begins by tracing the history of humonetarianism, offering two complementary genealogies for this discourse. It then moves on to demonstrate how the discourse of scarcity operates in a variety of contexts related to the correctional apparatus. From these multiple discursive sites, this article generates the main features of humonetarianism: an emphasis on emergency, short-term discourse; political bipartisanism; and cost-drive rhetoric. This article concludes by offering an analysis of the potential of humonetarianism to become a catalyst for a reversal of punitive tendencies. However, it also illuminates the peril of opting for short-term correctional solutions, anticipating a punitive backlash once the situation improves.

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