« "Death Qualification in Black and White: Racialized Decision Making and Death‐Qualified Juries" | Main | First ripple of Dimaya disruptions appears in SCOTUS relists »

April 28, 2018

"Punishment and Human Dignity: Sentencing Principles for Twenty-First Century America"

The title of this post is the title of this paper by Michael Tonry recently posted to SSRN.  Here is its abstract:

A new conception of justice in punishment is needed that is premised on respect for offenders’ human dignity. It needs to acknowledge retributive and utilitarian values and incorporate independently important values of fairness and equal treatment.  Punishment principles, policies, and practices lined up nicely in mid-twentieth century America. Utilitarian principles implied a primary goal of crime prevention through rehabilitation and avoidance of unnecessary suffering by offenders.  Judges and parole boards were empowered to tailor decisions to fit offenders’ circumstances and interests.  Corrections officials sought to address rehabilitative needs and facilitate achievement of successful, law-abiding lives.  The system often did not work as it should, but its ideals, aspirations, and aims were clear.  In our time, there are no commonly shared principles, sentencing laws and practices are unprecedentedly rigid and severe, judges and parole boards often lack authority to make sensible or just decisions, corrections officials are expected simultaneously to act as police officers, actuaries, and social workers, and injustice is ubiquitous.

April 28, 2018 at 05:51 PM | Permalink


Amazing how we're so exquisitely interested in the dignity of various and sundry criminals . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Apr 29, 2018 11:28:41 AM

I'd readily post your accounting, federalist, of which humans whose dignity you think ought not be of any concern.

Posted by: Doug B | Apr 29, 2018 12:21:42 PM

The one group of criminals that generally get extra respect on this blog are sex offenders. But, yes, the 8A does respect the basic human dignity of those convicted of crimes. It is impressive though in practice only so much as applied.


Posted by: Joe | Apr 29, 2018 1:27:07 PM

What do you mean by "extra respect" Joe?

Posted by: Doug B. | Apr 29, 2018 1:51:35 PM

More people come out concerned about their rights and treatment as compared to other crimes.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 29, 2018 4:27:31 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB