Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Punishment, Prisons, and the Bible: Does 'Old Testament Justice' Justify Our Retributive Culture?

71 Pages Posted: 18 May 2011  

Martin H. Pritikin

Whittier Law School

Date Written: May 17, 2006

Abstract

The phrases “Old Testament justice” and “eye for an eye” are associated with harsh vengeance and retribution, and are sometimes used to justify the current practices of ubiquitous incarceration and harsh sentencing within our own criminal justice system. But a detailed analysis of the Jewish legal tradition and the criminal justice system embodied therein reveals that victim compensation and offender atonement - not retribution or inflicting suffering for its own sake - were the touchstones of criminal punishments. Indeed, prisons as we know them did not exist within the ancient Israeli or Talmudic tradition, and the punishments that most closely approximated prisons promoted rehabilitation more than incapacitation or retribution. Although the particular punishments utilized would be ill-suited to a modern secular society, the societal values reflected therein are highly relevant to our own times.

Suggested Citation

Pritikin, Martin H., Punishment, Prisons, and the Bible: Does 'Old Testament Justice' Justify Our Retributive Culture? (May 17, 2006). Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 28, p. 715, November 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1844609

Martin H. Pritikin (Contact Author)

Whittier Law School ( email )

3333 Harbor Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
186
Rank
136,329
Abstract Views
1,253