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“Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” Music as Punishment in the United States Legal System

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In recent years, music scholars as well as the public at large have become increasingly aware of music's negative potential. Rather than a subversive anomaly, music's destructive possibilities are an enduring and powerful reality within our historical past and present. This article examines a current example of the exploitation of music's darker potential—the use of music as punishment in the United States legal system—by specifically evaluating the “Music Immersion Program,” invented by Judge Paul Sacco. This program subjects noise violators in Fort Lupton, Colorado, to one hour of music as punishment for their transgression. Based in part on the testimony of Judge Paul Sacco, feedback forms from participants in his program of musical punishment submitted upon completion of the sentence, as well as newspaper articles and theories of punishment, this article considers the origins of this punishment and how it is administered, as well as the sentence's intended results and ultimate effects.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-02-01

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