A Framework Theory of Punishment

30 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2021 Last revised: 16 Jun 2021

See all articles by Tatjana Hörnle

Tatjana Hörnle

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law

Date Written: February 10, 2021


The paper discusses features of the German discussion on punishment theories, followed by conceptual parts. A central thesis is that framing discussions in dichotomies, such as absolute–relative or retributive–preventive, is not very helpful. A sufficiently complex theory needs to take account of different features and different perspectives. It must both justify the necessity of criminal norms and criminal justice systems towards the collective of citizens and justify the restrictions of freedom imposed on offenders. A simple reference to the long history of state punishment would explain why we usually take this institute for granted, but it would not be sufficient to justify the public expenditures invested in criminal justice systems. In addition to preventive goals, victims’ interests deserve a more prominent role in arguments for why criminal punishment is necessary.

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Keywords: Criminal Punishment, Theories of Punishment, General Prevention, Expressive Theories, Victims

Suggested Citation

Hörnle, Tatjana, A Framework Theory of Punishment (February 10, 2021). Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law Working Paper No. 2021/01, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3783314 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3783314

Tatjana Hörnle (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law ( email )

Guenterstalstr. 73
Freiburg, 79100

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