University of New Orleans philosophy professor Chris Surprenant has received a $32,350 grant from the Charles Koch Foundation to study the American approach to punishment and alternatives to incarceration. The grant will fund an academic conference and related scholarship on the topic.
The United States leads the world in per capita incarceration, and Louisiana incarcerates more people, on a per capita basis, than any other state.
Surprenant is an associate professor of philosophy and the director of the Alexis de Tocqueville Project in Law, Liberty and Morality, which examines the enduring questions in the history of Western moral and political thought.
“The function of the conference and the accompanying scholarship will be to consider under what conditions incarceration is legitimate and should be implemented,” Surprenant said. “While it may seem obvious that we incarcerate too many people—especially nonviolent offenders—and that this approach to punishment creates a number of problems, there is minimal discussion about the morality of incarceration and the alternatives that should be employed. We hope this project will stimulate that conversation.”
According to Surprenant, the conference will bring together academics from law, philosophy, politics and economics who will engage in discussions about punishment and generate public policy solutions. The grant will also result in the publication of a book containing scholarly articles on the topic of incarceration and its alternatives.