CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Kolber on The Time Frame Challenge to Retributivism

KolberAdam J. Kolber (Brooklyn Law School) has posted The Time Frame Challenge to Retributivism on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Retributivists believe that criminal offenders should suffer or be punished in proportion to what they morally deserve. There is, however, an often-ignored debate as to whether desert should be assessed across a person’s life (the “whole life” view) or only for crimes that are the subject of a current sentencing proceeding (the “current crime” view). Both options are unappealing. The whole life view may be superior on theoretical grounds but is hopelessly impractical. The current crime view is somewhat more practical but has no solid theoretical foundation. The lack of a suitable time frame in which to assess desert represents an important challenge to retributivist conceptions of proportionality. Even uncertainty about the proper time frame may itself be detrimental to some retributivists’ hopes of justifying the incarcerative sentences of particular offenders.

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