Retribution and the Experience of Punishment

34 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2010 Last revised: 14 Aug 2012

John Bronsteen

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Christopher Buccafusco

Yeshiva University - Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Jonathan S. Masur

University of Chicago - Law School

Date Written: October 15, 2010

Abstract

In a prior article, we argued that punishment theorists need to take into account the counterintuitive findings from hedonic psychology about how offenders typically experience punishment. Punishment generally involves the imposition of negative experience. The reason that greater fines and prison sentences constitute more severe punishments than lesser ones is, in large part, that they are assumed to impose greater negative experience. Hedonic adaptation reduces that difference in negative experience, thereby undermining efforts to achieve proportionality in punishment. Anyone who values punishing more serious crimes more severely than less serious crimes by an appropriate amount - as virtually everyone does - must therefore confront the implications of hedonic adaptation. Moreover, the unadaptable negativity of post-prison life which is caused by the experience of imprisonment results in punishments that go on far longer than is typically assumed. Objectivist retributive theories that fail to incorporate these facts risk creating grossly excessive punishments. Certain retributivists have disputed the claim that adaptation is important to punishment theory, but their arguments are unavailing.

Keywords: punishment, retribution, adaptation, prison, incarceration

Suggested Citation

Bronsteen, John and Buccafusco, Christopher and Masur, Jonathan S., Retribution and the Experience of Punishment (October 15, 2010). California Law Review, Vol. 98, No. 5, October 2010; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 321. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1692921

John Bronsteen

Loyola University Chicago School of Law ( email )

Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-654-1511 (Phone)
312-915-7201 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.luc.edu/law/fulltime/bronsteen.shtml

Christopher J. Buccafusco

Yeshiva University - Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law ( email )

55 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10003
United States

Jonathan S. Masur (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773.702.5188 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/faculty/masur/

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