Academic Year 2010-2011
Douglas Husak was born in Ohio and received both his Ph.D. and J.D. from Ohio State University in 1976. He has been teaching philosophy at Rutgers University since 1977. His two primary areas of research interest are drug policy and criminal law theory in which he has published over 100 scholarly articles and books. His most important books include “Overcriminalization” (Oxford Universiy Press, 2008); “Philosophy of Criminal Law” (Rowman & Allanheld, 1987); “Drugs and Rights” (Cambridge, 1992), and a collection of essays “The Philosophy of Criminal Law: Selected Essays” (Oxford, 2010). He continues to explore the topic of the boundaries of the criminal sanction and is especially interested in how the requirement that punishments be deserved limits the range of conduct for which criminal liability may be imposed.
Lifting the Cloak:
Preventive Detention As Punishment
My central area of research is on criminalization---an examination of the rationales for decisions about what kinds of conduct to punish or not to punish. Despite its centrality, the topic of criminalization is under-theorized by legal philosophers.
My project at the Straus Institute draws from theories of punishment to illuminate issues of criminalization. Any view about how and why punishments can be defended has implications for the substantive criminal law. In other words, we can begin with normative views about punishment and work backwards to help decide what kinds of conduct are eligible for punishment as so conceived. Obviously, contemporary theorists are undecided both about what types of sanctions qualify as punishments as well as about the conditions under which these sanctions are justified. Different positions about these issues---amply represented by the distinguished Fellows at the Straus Institute---will have different implications for these matters.
Consider the single example of drug courts. These courts are popular along all points of the political spectrum; over 2000 currently exist in each of the fifty states. Suppose we construe the mode of therapeutic jurisprudence dispensed by drug courts as a kind of punishment and conclude that the state has the legitimate authority to impose it. If so, it would seem that any behaviors that can be treated by the state with beneficial outcomes for participant-defendants can be justifiably subjected to criminal sanctions. Obviously, this rationale for intervention by the criminal justice system is incredibly broad. One can only imagine the spectacle of obese persons and tobacco users becoming eligible for coercive intervention within the criminal justice system if we manage to devise effective coercive therapies to combat their unhealthy conditions. Clearly, nearly all academics would object to the expansive role of the criminal justice system I suggest here. But I anticipate that they would divide radically about exactly what is objectionable about it. In any event, the issues of criminalization raised by drug courts are just one of many examples of the project I hope to pursue at the Straus Institute.