Chapter

Sufficiently Good Reason

Hyman Gross

in Crime and Punishment

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199644711
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738944 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199644711.003.0002
Sufficiently Good Reason

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This chapter analyzes the justification for criminal punishment. Criminal punishment is the most powerful and the most widely used device that the law has at its disposal, as well as the crudest and the most frightening. Unrelenting efforts to make it respectable are explained by that fact alone, though more is at stake than simply the enjoyment of a clear conscience in enforcing the law. The justification of punishment tout court is surrounded by satellite issues of justification that are of great importance in their own right, and these issues cannot be dealt with properly unless we know why it is right to make things punishable in the first place. This chapter argues that no matter how good an idea it might be to punish crime, punishment cannot be justified simply because it is a good idea. If we respect those basic human rights that endure regardless of criminal conduct, we are free to inflict only such harm as may be strictly necessary to protect ourselves, for it is that harm only that is justifiable and so that harm only that the perpetrator has exposed himself to in committing the crime.

Keywords: crime; criminal punishment; law; justification; human rights

Chapter.  4594 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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