The ethics of recidivist premiums

Authored by: Richard L. Lippke

The Routledge Handbook of Criminal Justice Ethics

Print publication date:  July  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415708654
eBook ISBN: 9781315885933
Adobe ISBN: 9781134619450


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Recidivist premiums are sentence enhancements given to individuals for their most recent criminal offenses because they have continued to commit crimes after having previously been punished for other offenses. Though considerable variation in such enhancements exists, they can be found, in some form or other, in most legal jurisdictions throughout the world (Bagaric 2010: 10; Roberts 2008a: 468). However, the ubiquity of this sentencing practice is hard to square with its insecure theoretical foundations. Though numerous defenses of recidivist premiums have been advanced, most have been found wanting (Frase 2012; Bagaric 2010; Roberts 2008a). Some sentencing theorists react to the unimpressive arguments for recidivist premiums by advocating their elimination (Bagaric 2010). Other theorists doubt that the public’s appetite for such premiums can be so blithely ignored (Roberts 2008b). It seems fair to say that the public’s support of recidivist premiums, though apparently strong, is somewhat undifferentiated in the sense that it does not translate into highly specific recidivist sentencing policies. This, in turn, suggests that public demands for such policies might be tutored in order to produce recidivist sentencing practices that are more constructive and fair than is often the norm.

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