Further Reflections on the Guillotine

12 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2005 Last revised: 28 Nov 2007


The authors criticize the tone and substance of the current death penalty debate. The authors demonstrate that, as uncomfortable as it may sound, death is the commonality of social planning, and that all social policy decisions, including whether to have capital punishment, determine who will live and who will die. That we may execute some innocent people is an important consideration, but in light of the fact that without the death penalty other innocent people will be killed, it is not necessarily a reason to abandon it. If capital punishment deters crime, the point is obvious, but because the guilty will sometimes kill again if not executed, abolition would not obviously save innocent lives instead of merely displacing death. And just like any other form of social planning, the authors argue, such an allocation of death is the rightful province of a democratic society.

Suggested Citation

Allen, Ronald Jay and Shavell, Amy, Further Reflections on the Guillotine. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 95, p. 625, 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=707281

Ronald Jay Allen (Contact Author)

Northwestern University Law School ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-8372 (Phone)
312-503-2035 (Fax)

Amy Shavell

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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