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NCJ Number: 114997 Find in a Library
Title: Can Any Legal Punishment of the Guilty Be Unjust to Them?
Journal: Wayne Law Reivew  Volume:33  Issue:4  Dated:(Summer 1987)  Pages:1413-1421
Author(s): E Van den Haag
Date Published: 1987
Page Count: 9
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Punishments that appear disproportionate to the crime are not unjust to the offender, who knowingly volunteered to risk the punishment; however, a rational system of punishments should be based on the concepts of justice and crime control.
Abstract: Punishments are intended to deter crime and to do justice to those who were not deterred. For some offenses, deterrence requires harsher threats than those called for by justice, and other crimes may be so outrageous that they call for more retribution that what is needed to deter. Retribution and deterrence may thus require different punishments. Harsh penalities are never unjust to the offender, who knowingly undertook the risk of being punished, but they may not do justice to the crime. A rational punishment system must reflect what society currently regards as deserved in relation to the perceived seriousness of the crime and, to a lesser extent, the perceived culpability of the offender. It must also reflect a decision regarding the incentives and disincentives that society wants to provide to potential criminals as they consider engaging in illegal activities, although research has not determined the precise deterrent effects of specific punishments.
Main Term(s): Punishment
Index Term(s): Criminal responsibility; Decisionmaking; Deterrence; Risk taking behavior; Sentencing factors
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