Chapter

The Politics of Proportionality

Andrew von Hirsch

in Censure and Sanctions

Published in print February 1996 | ISBN: 9780198262411
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682339 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198262411.003.0019

Series: Oxford Monographs on Criminal Law and Justice

The Politics of Proportionality

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The so-called ‘desert model’ emerged in the 1970s among liberals. Several years' confinement is not the kind of sanction which any offender deemed a bad risk should receive, but only those offenders whose actual criminal conduct is quite grave. The principle of proportionality was offered as a means for restricting the state's authority to punish, particularly, as a way of limiting the use of severe sanctions. Predictively-based punishments were opposed, not only because they fail to reflect the degree of reprehensibleness of the criminal conduct, but because they permit intervention without limit into the lives of supposedly dangerous offenders. The principle of proportionality is defended on grounds of fairness. Substantial prison terms are to be restricted to those convicted of seriously reprehensible criminal conduct. A penalty scale's anchoring points are to be set so as, generally, to reduce overall penalty levels.

Keywords: desert model; proportionality; sanctions; predictively-based punishments; intervention; penalty scale

Chapter.  6653 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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