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date: 21 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines consequentialist theories, retributivism, and efforts either to combine features of both or to develop some entirely different approach. Punishment, it is said, can deter others from behaving as the criminal did (general deterrence), deter those punished from reoffending (special deterrence), alter the criminal's character or values so that he or she no longer wishes to commit crimes (rehabilitation), disable unreformed offenders from committing new crimes (incapacitation), and reinforce the societal norms the criminal has violated (normative validation). Whatever mechanism consequentialists endorse, they agree that the deliberate infliction of suffering involved in punishment is in itself an evil, justified only instrumentally by its good consequences. By contrast, retributive theorists regard punishment as an intrinsically good response to criminal behavior because it “annuls” the crime, or gives the criminal what he or she deserves.

Keywords: legal punishment, deterrence, retributive theorists, criminal behavior, consequentialist theories

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