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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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Terror as a Theory of Punishment

Terror as a Theory of Punishment

(p.155) 8 Terror as a Theory of Punishment
Retributivism Has a Past

Alice Ristroph

Oxford University Press

This chapter gives an account of deserved punishment today, and in so doing, to suggest some limitations to what desert might become. Desert is not an antidote to public sensibilities, but a vehicle for their expression. Of course, public sensibilities vary by place as well as time, and so desert has a geography as well as a (developing) history. Much of the discussion focuses on the United States, but there is evidence that the analysis describes at least some other developed western democracies. It examines desert's promise to discipline today's passions and suggests that we should not be surprised that this promise has remained unfulfilled. This, then, leads to a final normative question—the question of whether policy makers or legal decision makers should defer to populist attitudes concerning deserved punishment. The chapter concludes with some reflections on reform strategies that seek neither to bury nor to praise desert, but to scrutinize the underlying components of desert judgments.

Keywords:   deserved punishment, desert, discipline, public sensibilities, reform strategies

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