Incapacitation and Just Deserts as Motives for Punishment

25 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2005

See all articles by Paul H. Robinson

Paul H. Robinson

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Kevin M. Carlsmith

Colgate University - Psychology Department

John M. Darley

Princeton University

Abstract

What motivates a person's desire to punish actors who commit intentional, counternormative harms? Two possible answers are a just deserts motive or a desire to incarcerate the actor so that he cannot be a further danger to society. Research participants in two experiments assigned punishments to actors whose offenses were varied with respect to the moral seriousness of the offense and the likelihood that the perpetrator would commit similar future offenses. Respondents increased the punishment as the seriousness of the offense increased, but their sentences were not affected by variations in the likelihood of committing future offenses, suggesting that just deserts was the primary sentencing motive. Only in a case in which a brain tumor was identified as the cause of an actor's violent action, a case that does not fit the standard prototype of a crime intentionally committed, did respondents show a desire to incarcerate the actor in order to prevent future harms rather than assigning a just deserts based punishment.

Keywords: Desert, punishment, incapacitation

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Robinson, Paul H. and Carlsmith, Kevin M. and Darley, John M., Incapacitation and Just Deserts as Motives for Punishment. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=678963

Paul H. Robinson (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Kevin M. Carlsmith

Colgate University - Psychology Department ( email )

13 Oak Drive
Hamilton, NY 13346
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.colgate.edu/DesktopDefault1.aspx?tabid=684&pgID=3400&vID=3&dID=0&fID=4213

John M. Darley

Princeton University ( email )

1-N-17 Green Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States
609-258-3000 (Phone)

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
456
Abstract Views
3,591
rank
69,277
PlumX Metrics