The Decline of Punishment

Hyman Gross

in Crime and Punishment

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199644711
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738944 | DOI:
The Decline of Punishment

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This chapter is concerned with criminal punishment when viewed as a morally disturbing institution at the heart of political society. Criminal punishment appears to be indispensable, but it is not a social practice that can fill us with pride. It destroys lives, inflicts terrible suffering, and degrades those who become its victims, not only while it is being administered, but for as long as the person to whom it has been administered is known by others to have suffered it. Its standard form is imprisonment, and in that form it combines the essential features of some other notorious social institutions that also pose questions of political morality. Four such institutions also violate basic human rights: slavery, torture, war, and capital punishment. Viewing criminal punishment in their company helps make it seem less a moral fixture and more a feature of social expediency.

Keywords: criminal punishment; political morality; slavery; torture; war; capital punishment

Chapter.  5375 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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