Mark Kleiman and Cathy Young both have thoughtful defenses of the idea that criminal justice needs to take into account not just deterrence and incapacitation (to prevent future crimes) but also retribution. Says Mr. Kleiman:

I share the glee that I assume most of my Blue friends will feel at the prospect of Augusto Pinochet finishing out his life behind prison bars. ...

Note, however, that if putting Pinochet away is justified, it must be on some basis other than deterrence or incapacitation. Perhaps it's time to rethink the place of retribution as a legitimate goal of criminal justice policy. Making what remains of Pinochet's life as miserable as possible is something owed to his victims. It proclaims that what he did was wrong, that the victims did not deserve their victimization, and that they were important enough to be worth revenging.

Why should it be so hard to see that, and to apply it to more ordinary cases?

I've long held a similar view that the purpose of the criminal justice system should be to punish wrongdoers and that any peripheral effects (such as bringing "closure" or reformation) are just icing on the cake.

(HT: Eugene Volokh.)



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