Terror as a Theory of Punishment

Alice Ristroph

in Retributivism Has a Past

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199798278
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919376 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Penal Theory and Philosophy

Terror as a Theory of Punishment

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This chapter gives an account of deserved punishment today, and in so doing, to suggest some limitations to what desert might become. Desert is not an antidote to public sensibilities, but a vehicle for their expression. Of course, public sensibilities vary by place as well as time, and so desert has a geography as well as a (developing) history. Much of the discussion focuses on the United States, but there is evidence that the analysis describes at least some other developed western democracies. It examines desert's promise to discipline today's passions and suggests that we should not be surprised that this promise has remained unfulfilled. This, then, leads to a final normative question—the question of whether policy makers or legal decision makers should defer to populist attitudes concerning deserved punishment. The chapter concludes with some reflections on reform strategies that seek neither to bury nor to praise desert, but to scrutinize the underlying components of desert judgments.

Keywords: deserved punishment; desert; discipline; public sensibilities; reform strategies

Chapter.  7281 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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