Environmental degradation is a global problem. Humans need natural resources to survive and, as those resources are limited, humans’ use of these resources should respect a sustainable pace established by law. There are many approaches to addressing environmental degradation that do not honor the legal limitations and one of them is through criminal law. The question that is posed in this thesis is whether imprisonment, one of the most severe methods of punishment, is a suitable option to repress and prevent environmental crimes.
This thesis is divided in three chapters. The first chapter discusses why environmental crimes are relevant. It also explores why the conversation about imprisonment as a way of preventing and repressing those crimes is current and important. Through examples on illegal fishing, wildlife, and forest trade, chapter I demonstrates the harmful effects of environmental degradation – effects both in nature and throughout many levels of society (economy, health, governability, among others). The examples demonstrate why this topic should be addressed through criminal law, which allows the retribution and prevention of crime through one of the most serious means of punishment: imprisonment. However, particular examples from the United States of America and Brazil are presented to prove that imprisonment is not presently the norm when sentencing environmental crimes in both countries. As imprisonment was the option adopted by both countries to address another relevant and urgent challenge (drug crimes), the question posed is whether this option should also be used for environmental crimes. The urgency on preventing environmental degradation proves that the subject is current; the fact that imprisonment was used previously when a similar challenge faced the authorities, without a clear success, demonstrates that the discussion about its use in environmental crimes is imperative.
Rafael Wolff, Environmental Crimes and Imprisonment: Does Prison Work to Prevent and Punish Environmental Criminals? (Feb. 2016) (SJD dissertation, Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University), http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawdissertations/19/.