Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Retribution and "just deserts"

In a comment on my post about retribution and morality (in response to his own earlier post), Mark Kleiman draws a distinction between "retribution" and "just deserts":

"Just deserts" is offender-focused: What ought this person to suffer? The extreme version of this is Kant's, who says that the offender is owed punishment and that it would be unjust to the offender to forgo it. ...

Retribution, by contrast, is victim-focused. Retributive punishment is a public demonstration that what was done to the victim was wrong, and that the victim was worth avenging. ...

One function of public justice is to displace private vengeance, which is by its nature capricious, likely to misfire, and capable of producing a Hatfield-and-McCoy spiral. But if public justice is to displace private vengeance, then public justice must be done. If Pinochet's victims and their families are to be asked to refrain from hiring private thugs to smash his kneecaps, then the public owes it to them to handle Pinochet in court, no matter how old and harmless he now is.

While I am highly sympathetic to the moral claims of victims of violence, I think there are several problems with overly victim-focused justice (and it's a problem that manifests itself in such popular practices as victim impact statements at sentencing, or prosecutorial speeches describing the victim's wonderful qualities).

1. Focusing on the "worth" of the victim may lead to grading crimes on the victim's social standing, popularity, etc. Should the murder of a beloved husband and father, and a valued member of his community, be punished more severely than the murder of a friendless middle-aged bachelor? Unfortunately, a lot of studies show that the "merit" of the victim has an impact on the sentence given to a hypothetical offender, but I think that the criminal's intent still plays a key part in determining appropriate punishment. Let's take two hypothetical situations:

(a) A serial child molester is released after serving a ridiculously short sentence. A few days later, he is accosted and shot dead by the distraught parent of one of his victims.

(b) A serial child molester is released after serving a ridiculously short sentence. A few days later, he is accosted and shot dead by a mugger.

Without condoning vigilantism, I think most of us would give the distraught parent a lower sentence than we would the mugger, even though the victim -- and the end result -- is the same.

2. Victim-focused justice, strictly applied, would make no allowances for intent. If someone forgets about a lit stove and starts a kitchen fire that kills six people, the victims are just as dead as they would be if the fire had been started by an arsonist (and the victims' relatives may be just as angry). But surely no one would advocate the same punishment for the negligent cook and the arsonist. Furthermore, in some cases we decide that the offender should be given a very mild punishment or none at all because his/her mental capacity makes him/her unable to fully understand the nature of the act.

3. Victim-focused justice would make the degree of punishment contingent on how forgiving the victim is (or how forgiving his or her relatives are). If a victim chooses to forgive her rapist -- because of, say, religious beliefs, or the ideoogical conviction that criminals are really oppressed victims of society -- it should have no impact on the rapist's punishment.

The shift from private vengeance to public retribution means more than simply delegating vengeance to the state because it's more practical. It also means a shift to the concept that the crime is an offense not just against the victim, but against society, or against the moral order. Walter Berns and other advocates of retributive justice argue that a crime disrupts the moral balance of the universe, which is then restored by punishment. This may seem like an overly abstract and metaphysical concept, but I think that such a notion of crime and punishment as moral calculus underlies a lot of our thinking on the subject.

Finally, Kant's notion that it would be unfair to the offender not to punish him may seem quaint, but I will point out that in some cases, criminals who were not apprehended have turned themselves in because they were tormented by remorse and felt that being punished would salve their conscience.


anniesmom03 said...

Not a profound statement here, just an anecdote that supports point #1. When I was in grad school, one of my classmates was killed in a hit and run by a coked-out driver without a liscence driving a car that had failed a recent inspection. They caught the driver, as he crashed into a garbage dumpster two blocks away. The partner of my classmate inviteded a few of us to make a victim impact statement. I declined, mostly because I am opposed to victim-centered justice, but also because I understood something that my friend's partner did not understand. In spite of what this man was to me-a good friend, a valued colleague, and what he was to his partner-the love of his young life, to the rest of the world he was just an HIV-positive gay Dutch graduate student, sponging of the American taxpayer, estranged from his parents, and on his way from one gay club to another when he died.

As it turns out, the driver got no jail time.

Cathy Young said...

Ouch--what a truly sad story, anniesmom. My condolences on the loss of your friend.

Anonymous said...

Without condoning vigilantism, I think most of us would give the distraught parent a lower sentence than we would the mugger, even though the victim -- and the end result -- is the same.

Sure, most people would give the parent a lighter sentence, but not just out of sympathy. The mugger is much more likely to kill again.


Cathy Young said...

Z, excellent point. Clearly a lot of the distinctions we make based on intent also reflect assessments of future dangerousness (and thus considerations of social utility as well as morality). Although I would say that the grieving parent could be seen as dangerous too -- what if he finds himself in another situation where his child is threatened, and perhaps goes after the wrong person by mistake?

And clearly there are cases in which we feel that severe punishment is appropriate even though the crime is very unlikely to be repeated. A few years ago in California, a woman in the middle of a custody battle fatally stabbed her three children and tried to frame her estranged husband for the crime. It is extremely unlikely that she'd ever repeat the offense, but I'm sure most people would nonetheless feel that she deserved a very severe penalty.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kathy excellent log you have here. I have to write a paper six to eight page paper that will require me to assess the mental competency and perceived risk of a hypothetical offender. Could you please give me some help here on where to look? Thanks!

Adi said...

thanks for sharing this info. greets from Pandeglang. Pandeglang is one of many places in Indonesia are eligible for tourist destination.
Kenali dan Kunjungi Objek Wisata di Pandeglang Objek Wisata di Pandeglang Kenali dan Kunjungi Objek Wisata di Pandeglang Pantai Carita Seni Saman Rampak Bedug

Kristen Stewart said...

brochure design | Custom Logo Design | stationery design

Kristen Stewart said...

website design | customized logo

nike said...

You will never find swimsuit more excellent than in Ed Hardy!
ed hardy ugg boots
ed hardy love kills slowly boots
ed hardy love kills slowly
We provide you with the sexiest swimwear at present. Wanting to be bright on beach in this
ed hardy polo shirts
ed hardy love kills slowly shoes
ed hardy wear
Abandoning traditional concepts on sexy swimwear, Ed Hardy adds tattoo upon, which is meaning
ed hardy love kills slowly shirts
ed hardy trousers
ed hardy jackets
It seems that ed hardy mens shoes was difficult to be able to let you exist out in swimwear, the
ed hardy t shirts sale
ed hardy womens t shirts
ed hardy boots
In the trunks term, the Panerai candy-flush has mainly took the Louis Vuitton Speedy purpose
ed hardy womens clothes
ed hardy womens shirts
ed hardy clothes
swimwear in an austere tone proposal combines the exclusive tailoring, Cool down, sunshine fair,
ed hardy outerwear
ed hardy womens
ed hardy womens jeans
green MOISTURE, attractive red no other elements, together with the unique thwart-buckle create
ed hardy bags
ed hardy winter boots
ed hardy t shirts
Whether it is sexy bikini, or cross-quantity g-star trunks intended to reach new heights with this
ed hardy bags
ed hardy winter boots
ed hardy t shirts
The desired redden of this type of bag, but once again the label that ed hardy and the Christian Audigier Brand Manage Louboutin at MAGIC in August 2009.
ed hardy t shirts for men
ed hardy mens jeans
ed hardy mens shoes
The total spectrum of Audigier Brand Management lifestyle brands and crop will be including ed hardy shirts,
ed hardy mens shoes
ed hardy womens hoodies
ed hardy mens tees
food ranging from ment and woment garb, accessories, footwear. Christian Audigier, SMET, Crystal Rock

nike said...

Rubber. Rubber is widly used in the outsole of the athletic shoes.
cheap puma shoes
discount puma shoes
It has the advantages of durable, skipproof, flexible, elastic, extensive, stable and proper hardness.
nike shox torch
nike tn dollar
cheap nike shox
PU is a kind of macromolecule polyurethane materials which is offten used in the midsole
cheap nike shox shoes
nike shox r4
puma mens shoes
Sometimes, it is also used in the outsole of casual shoes.
PU is durable, strong hardness, upstanding flexbility and more important, it is environmentally
cheap nike max
discount nike shox
cheap puma ferrari shoes
The disadvantage is also outstanding. Strong hydroscopic property, break apart and EVA.
nike mens shoes
nike shox nz
discount nike running shoes
which is usually used in the midsole of the running shoes and casual shoes.
EVA is quite lightweight, elastic, flexible and suitable to a variety of climates.
discount nike shoes
nike shox shoes
cheap nike shoes
PHYLON. Phylon is the product of the EVA after the second processing. Just as the rubber
nike sports shoes
puma running shoes
puma sneakers
The midsole of running shoes, tennis shoes and basketball shoes in the world is made PHYLON.
nike air max tn
puma cat
puma shoes
The upstanding hardness, density, traction and extension make it favorite by the manufacture.
nike running shoes
wholesale nike shoes
nike shoes
Just as a coin has two sides, Phylon is nonrecoverable and easily shrink under high PHYLON.
nike shoes kids
nike women shoes

real_tips said...

mark kleimen is gret...


































hanly said...

Blu Ray Converter
Convert Blu Ray to AVI
Convert Blu Ray to MKV
Convert Blu Ray to MOV
Convert Blu Ray to MP4

Larah said...

We must train our retribution as
custom writing said.

dfadf said...

Microsoft Office
Office 2010
Microsoft Office 2010
Office 2010 key
Office 2010 download
Office 2010 Professional
Microsoft outlook
Outlook 2010
Windows 7
Microsoft outlook 2010

GuestUser said...

Harga Mobil Bekas | Tempat Casting Film | Ramalan 2011 | Foto Pernikahan Pasha dan Delia | Update Status Romantis | Tante Girang | No HP Tante Girang | Daftar Harga HP Bekas | Bug Pada Game Point Blank Online | Biro Jodoh Online | Ramalan Bintang | Ramalan Shio Zodiak Tionghoa | Point Blank Online Indonesia | Status Keren | Harga HP Android | Point Blank Online | Cara Daftar Point Blank Online | ucapan valentine 2011 | Makanan khas natal 2010 | Film terbaru 2011 | trend model gaya rambut 2011 | games.co.id | Ramalan tahun kelinci 2011 | Car review | New Car Release | Blog berita terkini | Charlotte auto insurance | TV Online Indonesia | Mivo TV | Puppy Dog Food Store | Debby Ayu Bugill | Indonesia Vs Filipina | Juara Piala AFF Suzuki Cup 2010 | Kumpulan berita baru point blank Berita terbaru adidas online store

happyoutlet said...

Lehman's holding chi flat ironcompany filed for Chapter 11 15 in New York in September 2008 are presented, and office buildings and sold by North American investment banking in London,chi flat irons Barclays Plc, in a week

later.chi guitar flat ironsBrokerage Lehman was dissolved on Sept. 19, 2008 in the same court. Mediation is a trustee in accordance with the law, the securities Investor Protection controlled appointed.

Peter said...

nice share thanks a lot :)

download free pc games
affiliate review

dsadf said...

et assessments this legitimateness of movie star weibos and contains certified this Radiohead weibo since true That seashore can Discount Burberry be relaxed,In SinaYour regal set pleased the several 1000 men and women gathered to begin simply by jogging over Ed Hardy to move hands and prevent for any rapid speak, although some given these people flowers, like the east coast Burberry cheap Canadian flower, Lupins, and also hand-held Canadian red flags, though nipping picsLAUREL, Mont A neighborhood classifieds, this Billings Gazette, Nike Air Jordan Cheap provides function photographs of the turtle and also a gang of pelicans unsurprisingly with acrylic about them "Right right nike air jordan shoes now our primary attention is ensuring that most people are included Two of this alerts faulted the organization for Nike Air Max the crisis reply and pipe deterioration This individual had not been sporting your life vest this guitar rock Air Max Shoes band explained

Nikolai said...

Very good response you made here.

End of tenancy cleaning London

JustinBarley said...

end of tenancy cleaning When talking about alcohol, the first thought comes up in your mind is drinking and having parties. Well, think again, you can use alcohol for cleaning, and it really work miracles. You might doubt about this, to be honest I had some doubts too, be it is worth trying. It will be surprised how easily the dirt is removed from different surfaces. To prepare a glass cleaner, recommended by window cleaning London, you need to use some alcohol-based recipes. post tenancy cleaning

cicy said...

Tera gold
Tera Item
Tera accountPeople say what matters is the beauty on the inside…cheap wow gold
cheapest wow gold
lotro goldThen why is it that the good looking girls go for the good looking boys and vica versa?This shows that for some outer beauty is as important as inner beauty, although inner beauty is above all beauty.

cicy said...

Thanks for sharing and letting us aware about this information. This is a great thread, so much info.




4rsgold said...

I declined, mostly because I am opposed to victim-centered justice, but also because I understood something that my friend's partner did not understand. cambridge satchel|cambridge satchels|cambridge satchel bag|cambridge leather satchel|英文seo|cambridge satchel company bag|satchel cambridge|cambridge satchel|cambridge satchels|cambridge satchel bag|cambridge leather satchel|women ugg boots sale

cambridge satchel said...

cambridge satchel are very fashion, now they have become a popular fashion trend. You will like cambridge backpack very much. ugg boot cambridge satchel company satchel cambridge leather bag cambridge satchels cambridge satchel bag ugg boot cambridge satchel company satchel cambridge leather bag cambridge satchels cambridge satchel bag

Seacanoeist Mark said...

Welcome to http://www.mmoggg.de website to buy RS Gold, offer a lot, of course, Diablo 3 Gold or Diablo 3 Gold Kaufen and WoW Gold, to be purchased at any time, at any time shipment, and look forward to your visit!