Dalhousie Law Journal


Justification, residual criminal stigmatization, contribution, philosophy of punishment, deleterious effects, criminal sanction


In the past twenty-five years advances in research have increased awareness of the deleterious effects of criminal sanction to an extent that they are now undeniable from any political or academic viewpoint. The most obvious and immediate unofficial sanction accompanying conviction in a criminal court, social and familial ostracism, has been relegated to the background by application of subcultural theory' and empirical demonstration that a single conviction rarely causes severe and lasting effects on family ties. 2 Meanwhile discrimination against ex-offenders in employment markets, both private3 and public, 4 has been clearly demonstrated in many countries. American writers have documented widely the loss of civil rights and status of ex-offenders5 and while there is good reason for the United States to feel more guilty in respect of such stigmatization - civil disabilities are considerably more prevalent in the U.S.A. than elsewhere in the cpmmon law world - at least one writer has pointed out that their neighbours across the 49th parallel are far from innocent of such derogation of the ex-offender status.6 Old convictions can affect licence applications7 and the contractual,8 testatory9 and immigration capacities 10 of the bearer. While police science has highlighted the prejudice toward known offenders that is prevalent in many police departments sociological theory has demonstrated the danger that a person once 'labelled' a criminal will develop a self-concept which leads to further criminal activity.12 It goes almost without saying that the continued existence of various prejudices in the ex-offender's environment may contribute heavily to this process.

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