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Retributivism Has a PastHas It a Future?$
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Michael Tonry

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199798278

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199798278.001.0001

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Is Twenty-first Century Punishment Post-desert?

Is Twenty-first Century Punishment Post-desert?

(p.30) 2 Is Twenty-first Century Punishment Post-desert?
Retributivism Has a Past

Matt Matravers

Oxford University Press

This chapter offers a brief introduction to how one might think about penal policies in an abstract context. Having rejected the desert thesis, it argues that “an entitlement to proportionality in sentencing” is not an independent principle, but is—as with all “entitlements”—determined by the wider theory of justice. For this reason, policy proposals have to be thought through; they cannot simply be rejected as incompatible with desert or proportionality. Twenty-first century punishment will be post-desert, but that is not a recent change. The best theories of punishment (and much else) are post-desert, and have been since long before the retributive revival at the end of the twentieth century. That revival was not about desert, but was about sweeping away many practices that resulted in actual injustices. It has left us with a principle of proportionality that is important, but insufficient.

Keywords:   penal policies, desert theory, proportionality, sentencing, entitlements, justice, retributive revival

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