UNO philosopher receives grant to study incarceration alternatives

The Charles Koch Foundation has granted University of New Orleans (UNO) philosophy professor Chris Surprenant more than $32,000 to study ways the United States can approach crime punishment and incarceration alternatives.

The grant will fund Surprenant’s participation in an academic conference on the topic and other scholastic research on alternatives to incarceration.

It’s a relevant topic for UNO academics to tackle. The United States has more people in prison per capita than any other nation in the world. Louisiana leads the U.S. in terms of per capita incarceration rates, making it one of the highest concentrations of imprisoned people in the world.

Surprenant holds the position of associate professor of philosophy at UNO and leads the university’s Alexis de Tocqueville Project in Law, Liberty and Morality. The institution aims to continually question, examine and study western moral and political thought.

The grant money will go to trying answer the question of when incarceration in legitimate punishment and when it isn’t, 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,” Surprenant said. “We hope this project will stimulate that conversation.”

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