During the summer of 2019 I had the opportunity to participate in the Research Experience and Apprenticeship Program (REAP) under the mentorship of Professor Nick Smith at the University of New Hampshire. In this commentary I introduce the research I completed during this program. I discuss the philosophy of utilitarianism, which was first popularized by European philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill during the late eighteenth and nineteenth century, and explore how their utility calculus can be used to justify and prescribe punishments. I criticize the utility calculus’s reliance on standard sentencing and other logistical issues associated with the calculus. I evaluate hypothetical punishments that would be prescribed by the utility calculus, as well as the logistics and theory of the utility calculus, to determine if the utility calculus has a positive or negative effect on punishment. Instead of a direct implementation of the utility calculus into criminal justice systems, I recommend that implementing utilitarian values, such as minimizing retributivism and increasing holistic thinking when determining sentencing, would positively benefit criminal justice systems.
Durham, NH: Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, University of New Hampshire
Gibson, Piper, "Can Utilitarianism Improve the US Criminal Justice System? An Evaluation of Punishment and the Utility Calculus" (2020). Inquiry Journal. 14.