In this article the writers challenge professors of criminal justice to use film to explore political and social realities of punishment. They want to stimulate research into effectively teaching criminal justice with film. Through the movie one can better understand the issues that arise concerning punishment and the state. The writers trace the development of criminal justice from a mens rea requirement to strict liability, whereby treatment concerns their action and not their intent. They discuss therapy and punishment philosophies of criminal justice and their effectiveness. Some criticized rehabilitation because it “was unlikely because, within the prison system, rehab was an artificial means to obtain release and was imposed on the offender, not a means for the offender to alter his conduct.” This is initially the case with Alex. We know from his monologues that he is pulling a fast one on the system. The writers see the film as the conflicts of therapy versus punishment taken to the extreme. Alex goes from being punished for what he had done to being treated for who he is. The debate between the philosophies is not about empirical testing but rather about political control. The writers illustrate the film’s importance based on historical events going on at the time when Burgess wrote the novel. The writers summarize the film emphasizing the difference between Alex’s totally institutionalized life in prison and his treatment life in the caring hospital. They then argue that the film is completely relevant to teaching criminal justice today. The film enables students to be suspicious of the morality of our institutions’ practices. It also demonstrates the difference between a system’s philosophy and its implementation.
The writers compare the permanent restriction of freedom from Alex’s treatment with the Sex Offender’s registry. They also consider public vigilantes taking out justice on offenders who are released early, as they happen in the film and in the real world. They argue that rehabilitation does not occur in the film, only incapacitation. They are concerned with legitimate consent because of the motivations to leave prison, similar to the ethical problem of compensating women for their eggs for stem cell research. The remainder of the article points out effective ways of using the movie as a teaching tool.