Proportionality and the Difference Death Makes
William A. Edmundson
Georgia State University College of Law
Criminal Justice Ethics, Vol. 21, pp. 40-43, 2002
Proponents and opponents of the death penalty both typically assume that punishment, in some form or other, is justified, somehow or other, and that just punishment must in some sense be proportionate to the crime. These shared assumptions turn out to embarrass both parties. Proponents have to explain why certain prima facie proportionate punishments, such as torture, are off the table, while death remains, so to speak, on it. Opponents have to explain why their favored alternatives to capital punishment, such as life without parole, are both proportionate to the worst crimes and not as bad as death. The commitment to proportionality makes trouble for both sides of the issue, and its resolution is unlikely until there is a satisfactory general account of proportionality in punishing. Such an account is nowhere in sight.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 11
Keywords: death penalty, capital punishment, punishment, proportionality, sentencing
JEL Classification: K14, K42Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: June 12, 2008
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