Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham was an English social reformer and utilitarian philosopher. His political and social reform campaigns, most especially the criminal law, were theoretically founded on the concept of utilitarianism, which gauges actions in accordance with their effects. Inspired by many philosophers, Bentham formulated an ethical theory rooted in a principally empiricist account of human nature. Although during Benthams lifetime his belief was chiefly unacknowledged, yet in later years the impact of his idea eventually became greater in view of the recognition of several new consequentialist followers.

Contributions to Contemporary Criminal Justice
Jeremy Bentham is primarily recognized today for his moral philosophy, particularly his concept of utilitarianism, which assesses actions according to their outcomes. Even though Bentham never practiced law, he did compose various philosophy of law and has spent most of his life promoting legal reform as well as evaluating a number of existing laws. Bentham critiqued numerous natural accounts of law, which pronounce, among others, that rights and liberty operate independently with government. In view of that, Bentham developed a principle of what is now popularly known as legal positivism (Sweet, 2008).

Bentham believed on the idea that law is not rooted in natural law but is a declaration that conveys the intention of the government. Therefore, Bentham advocates that even though a law commands morally evil or morally questionable actions, or is not derived from consent, yet it is the law and must be accepted by the society as such. Bentham all the same claims that good laws are indispensable to good government and indispensable to the social order. Thus, because of this principle the criminal justice system up till now is reverently acknowledging the importance of the roles played by the government and law, especially in achieving the interests of the community.

Benthams Idea of Model Prison  The Panopticon
In a time when the death penalty was enforced for unintentionally passing counterfeit money, or for thefts as small as 20, Bentham recommended a kind of penitentiary described the panopticon (Ross, 2005). The panopticon is a model prison where incarcerated individuals would be under supervision by concealed guards. He claimed that since prison guards cannot be seen by the prisoners they need not be on duty all the time, thus saving the government a great amount of resources. Unfortunately, however, the idea of the panopticon did not generate much interest to Czarina Catherine the Great of England despite the strong endorsement and great expense of Bentham (Sweet, 2008).

Concept of Utilitarianism
In Benthams 1780 written work entitled Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, he formulated the principle of utility wherein he claimed that an action is commendable only in so far as the action has a comprehensive tendency to uphold the paramount happiness of the greatest number of people (Utilitarianism, n.d.). Therefore, his concept of utilitarianism has basically two essential elements (1) the greatest good and (2) for the greatest number. In line with this explanation of utilitarianism, Bentham believes that law should be created so as to generate the paramount consequences to the greatest public.

Accordingly, Benthams concept of utilitarianism does nothing to safeguard individual rights as the concept disregards the dominant natural rights tradition. Nevertheless, Bentham did not entirely dismiss the concept of natural rights as he claimed several natural rights that all the same need to be respected. Nowadays, Benthams concept still offers a valid perspective in the criminal justice because unsystematic application of natural right is immensely confusing as it empowers people to assert on whatever things they desire. As a result, natural right would eliminate the right in general because of the idea that one persons right is not another persons right. Alarmingly, if every person had such freedom, the consequence would be absolute disorder.


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