Cruel and Unusual What? Toward a Unified Definition of Punishment

9 Washington University Jurisprudence Review 1 (2016)

42 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2017

See all articles by Raff Donelson

Raff Donelson

Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson Law

Date Written: December 1, 2016

Abstract

This Article argues for an expanded understanding of legal punishment for American courts to use. Punishment, on this new view, includes all significant harm caused by state actors’ retributive intent and most significant harm that befalls someone as a result of the state seeking retribution against her. What commends this new definition is not that it tracks lexicographers’ or metaphysicians’ understandings of punishment; rather, this new definition aims to track relevant moral and political considerations. Importantly, the proposed definition results from an attempt to reason from the perspective of someone harmed by state practices, as that perspective has greater moral import than perspectives of courts, lawmakers, or corrections officials.

Keywords: Punishment, Retribution, Eighth Amendment

Suggested Citation

Donelson, Raff, Cruel and Unusual What? Toward a Unified Definition of Punishment (December 1, 2016). 9 Washington University Jurisprudence Review 1 (2016), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2941464

Raff Donelson (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson Law ( email )

150 S College St
Carlisle, PA 17013
United States

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