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Proportionality in the Philosophy of Punishment

Andrew von Hirsch
Crime and Justice
Vol. 16 (1992), pp. 55-98
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1147561
Page Count: 44
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Proportionality in the Philosophy of Punishment
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Abstract

The principle of proportionality-that penalties be proportionate in their severity to the gravity of the defendant's criminal conduct-seems to be a basic requirement of fairness. Traditionally, penal philosophy has included a utilitarian tradition (dating from Bentham), which disregarded proportionality concerns, and a retributive tradition (dating from Kant), which did not supply a readily intelligible account of why punishment should be deserved. Recent philosophical writing has focused on penal desert, explained in terms of a just allocation of the "benefits" and "burdens" of law-abidingness, or as a way of expressing blame or censure of criminal wrongdoing. Expressive theories can explain the rationale of the proportionality principle and also account for the distinction between ordinal and cardinal proportionality. Desert models fully abide by the principle of proportionality. Alternative models might be devised that give proportionality a central role but permit limited deviations for other ends.

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