Crime and punishment: a rethink

Ognjen Arandjelović*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Incarceration remains the foremost form of sentence for serious crimes in Western democracies. At the same time, the management of prisons and of the prison population has become a major real-world challenge, with growing concerns about overcrowding, the offenders’ well-being, and the failure of achieving the distal desideratum of reduced criminality, all of which have a moral dimension. In no small part motivated by these practical problems, the focus of the present article is on the ethical framework that we use in thinking about and administering criminal justice. I start with an analysis of imprisonment and its permissibility as a punitive tool of justice. In particular, I present a novel argument against punitive imprisonment, showing it to fall short in meeting two key criteria of just punishment, namely (i) that the appropriate individual is being punished, and (ii) that the punishment can be adequately moderated to reflect the seriousness of the crime. The principles I argue for and that the aforementioned analysis brings to the fore, rooted in the sentient experience, firstly of victims, and not only of victims but also of the offenders as well as the society at large, then lead me to elucidate the broader framework of jurisprudence that I then apply more widely. Hence, while rejecting punitive imprisonment, I use its identified shortcomings to argue for the reinstitution of forms of punishment that are, incongruently, presently not seen as permissible, such as corporal punishment and punishments dismissed on the basis of being seen as humiliating. I also present a novel view of capital punishment, which, in contradiction to its name, I reject for punitive aims, but which I argue is permissible on compassionate grounds.
Original languageEnglish
Article number47
Number of pages20
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2023


  • Incarceration
  • Imprisonment
  • Jail
  • Prison
  • Offender
  • Retribution


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