The Rights of the Guilty: Punishment and Political Legitimacy

Political Theory, Vol. 35, No. 2, April 2007

26 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2011  

Corey L. Brettschneider

Brown University - Department of Political Science; Fordham University School of Law

Date Written: April 1, 2007

Abstract

In this essay I develop and defend a theory of state punishment within a wider
conception of political legitimacy. While many moral theories of punishment
focus on what is deserved by criminals, I theorize punishment within the specific
context of the state’s relationship to its citizens. Central to my account is
Rawls’s “liberal principle of legitimacy,” which requires that all state coercion
be justifiable to all citizens. I extend this idea to the justification of political
coercion to criminals qua citizens. I argue that the liberal principle of legitimacy
requires states to respect the basic political rights of those
who are guilty of committing crimes, including a right against capital punishment.

Keywords: punishment, legitimacy, contractualism, criminal justice, rights, criminal law, Rawls

Suggested Citation

Brettschneider, Corey L., The Rights of the Guilty: Punishment and Political Legitimacy (April 1, 2007). Political Theory, Vol. 35, No. 2, April 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1742346

Corey Brettschneider (Contact Author)

Brown University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 1844
Providence, RI 02912
United States

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

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