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Crime and PunishmentA Concise Moral Critique$
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Hyman Gross

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199644711

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199644711.001.0001

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Taking Human Rights Seriously

Taking Human Rights Seriously

(p.18) 3 Taking Human Rights Seriously
Crime and Punishment

Hyman Gross

Oxford University Press

Basic human rights present a two-part challenge to punishment. First, there is a general objection to the sacrifice of basic human rights in the cause of punishment. It poses the question of what, if anything, can license treating people who are convicted of crimes in ways that are otherwise regarded as so seriously wrong that we do not even need any criminal law to tell us they constitute crimes. The second objection addresses the question of whether my basic human rights need to be transgressed when I commit a crime. Even if a general practice that sacrifices basic human rights is justified, might not some occasions of the practice be dispensed with in order to reduce the aggregate amount of human rights violations and so avoid needless suffering if such dispensation does not make the practice less efficacious? This chapter responds to both these objections by taking a closer look at basic human rights. It also addresses the claim that only the requirements of self-preservation can withstand the objections posed by basic human rights.

Keywords:   crime, criminal punishment, self-preservation

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