De-moralising retributivism

Agency, blame, and humanity in criminal law theory and practice

Authored by: Matt Matravers

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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Writing in 1969 in a standard text on justifications of punishment, the philosopher Ted Honderich commented that ‘there no longer are defenders of the traditional retributive theory. … At any rate, there are no defenders writing in the usual places’ (1969: 148). In this, across the USA and UK (as well as elsewhere), theory reflected practice. 1 The use of indeterminate ‘public protection’ sentences was common, and the Model Penal Code that had been adopted by the American Law Institute in 1962 gave as the general purposes of “the sentencing and treatment of offenders”:

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