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Through the Lens of the Defense Attorney: The Effect on Public Opinion of Shifting the Viewpoint of the Criminal Justice System from Retributivism to Rehabilitation
AuthorAtherton, Natashja K.
Philosophy (Law, Justice, and Politics)
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With respect to the American criminal justice system, there exists a general impression among the public that it functions to serve justice in the form of retributivism. Retributivism entails that offenders receive "just deserts" for their crimes. Cast in the light of retributivism, the defense attorney appears to stand in the way of the system's provision of justice. Thus, the observer perspective holds defense attorneys in low regard. However, retributivism is not a complete description of the system's objective. Through interviews with local prosecutors and defense attorneys, I aim to show that the system's goal is better captured by the theory of rehabilitation. Within the rehabilitative framework, the defense attorney is vital to the administration of justice. Accordingly, when rehabilitation replaces retributivism as the perceived objective of the criminal justice system, it becomes clear that the defense attorney promotes, rather than impedes, the administration of justice.