CrimProf Blog

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

Friday, May 21, 2021

Dillof on Objective Punishment

Anthony M. Dillof (Wayne State Univerity Law School) has posted Objective Punishment (University of Cincinnati Law Review, Vol. 89, No. 3, 2021) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
The article addresses the question whether the punishment, besides fitting the crime, should also fit the criminal. A widely accepted principle of proportionality declares the worse the crime, the worse the punishment. But how should punishment severity be measured? Specifically, when the severity of a punishment is being evaluated for the purpose of fitting the crime, should idiosyncratic features of the offender be taken into account? Should a person suffering from claustrophobia get a shorter sentence because incarceration will be harder on him? Should being assaulted while incarcerated result in a shorter sentence because the actual incarceration was more harsh than expected? Should the foreseeable consequences of incarceration–losing a particularly high paying job or getting badly desired publicity–be considered in sentencing? The article argues, contrary to some recent scholarship, for an “objective theory” of punishment, according to which such idiosyncratic features of offenders are irrelevant to the determination of the punishment deserved, but may be considered as part of multi-valued scheme for managing social resources generally.

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The majority of supporters of this viewpoint believe that the punishment should be equal to the crime. Cesare Beccaria, an early Italian criminologist, campaigned for such a concept, believing that the heavy sentences of his time were disproportionate to many of the crimes committed. The proportionality principle states that the more serious the offence, the harsher the punishment.

Posted by: John Carter | May 24, 2021 2:08:53 AM

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