Society's Moral Right to Punish: A Further Exploration of the Denunciation Theory of Punishment
42 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2013
Date Written: December 1, 1990
The commonly identified theories of punishment for lawbreakers are either utilitarian, in that punishment is justified because it leads to a better society by reducing crime, or they are retributive, in that punishment is justified because the convicted criminal is morally deserving of punishment. Neither of these schools of thought presents a completely compelling argument for society's right to inflict punishment on a specific individual. If society does have such a right, however, it should be possible to identify the source of that right.
One of the reasons for the failing of these 2 doctrines is that while they may recognize crime's impact on law-abiding society, they do not even attempt to deal with punishment's effect on law-abiding society. Just as punishment may impact potential lawbreakers, it may also impact those who abide by the law. To fully understand society's right to inflict punishment, one must recognize punishment's full impact on all segments of society, not just the potential lawbreakers. Only the denunciation theory of punishment considers punishment's impact on law-abiding society.
Keywords: Denunciation Threory of Punishment, denunciation, deterrence, rehabilitation, incapacitation, reformation, resignation, retaliation, Utilitarian Theory of Punishment, Retributive Theory of Punishment
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation