Penance and Personalized Desert

Andrew von Hirsch

in Censure and Sanctions

Published in print February 1996 | ISBN: 9780198262411
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682339 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Monographs on Criminal Law and Justice

Penance and Personalized Desert

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The personalised sentence, designed to fit the defendant's personality and needs, was associated with penal rehabilitationism. Faith in it has waned for a variety of reasons. Treatment no longer seems plausible as the chief aim for sentencing, and the wide discretion required for such an aim has turned out to lead, too easily, to inconsistency and caprice. Conceivably, however, the personalised sentence could be reconceptualised to achieve another aim — that of conveying blame particularly suited to the wrongdoer. When someone is blamed for a wrongful act, shame or penitence would seem to be the appropriate response. Conceivably, the sentence might be fashioned so as best to elicit that response. Controls over excessive discretion could be introduced to prevent disproportionate and inconsistent outcomes.

Keywords: personalised sentence; penal rehabilitationism; inconsistency; penitence; excessive discretion; sentencing; blame; wrongful act; shame

Chapter.  3854 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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