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Against Prevention? A Response to Harcourt's Against Prediction on Actuarial and Clinical Predictions and the Faults of Incapacitation

  • Yoav Sapir

Abstract

This article reviews Bernard Harcourt's Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age (2007), in which he criticizes the use of actuarial prediction methods in the contexts of policing and sentencing. I focus on the latter context. I argue that Harcourt has identified an important, and not exclusively American, trend and develops a valid critique of it that should be pushed further. From a theory of punishment perspective, I argue that Harcourt's critique is no less applicable to clinical prediction methods than to the use of actuarial ones. Harcourt's arguments, however, beg a more general explanation of the flaws of incapacitation as a justification for punishment. If we base our objection to the use of prediction methods on such larger grounds, questions arise as to the legitimacy of other practices that are not considered punitive but rather “regulatory” or “preventive.”

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Against Prevention? A Response to Harcourt's Against Prediction on Actuarial and Clinical Predictions and the Faults of Incapacitation

  • Yoav Sapir

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