Anormative Conceptions of Punishment and Humanitarian Ideals

22 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2013

See all articles by Michael Tonry

Michael Tonry

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law

Date Written: September 21, 2013


For the past quarter century, scholars have identified and attempted to explain large differences and changes over time in countries’ penal policies as expressed in their imprisonment rates. Explanations differ, and imprisonment rates change, sometimes radically, but one thing has remained the same. The countries atop the rankings have consistently included the United States, South Africa, Russia, the Baltics, Ukraine, and Belarus. What distinguishes them, and more recently England and Wales, which has led the Western European league tables for two decades, is that they are countries in which punishment discourses, policies, and practices take little account of the interests of offenders. "There but for the grace of God…" empathy is largely absent. Mainstream retributive and consequentialist theories of punishment appear to have little influence. Policies and practices, and the implicit punishment theory might best be described as anormative.

Keywords: anormative theories, punishment theory, retributivism, consequentialism, imprisonment rates

Suggested Citation

Tonry, Michael, Anormative Conceptions of Punishment and Humanitarian Ideals (September 21, 2013). Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-50, Available at SSRN: or

Michael Tonry (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law ( email )

229-19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics