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Punishment as atonement, Atonement, Utilitarianism, Restorativism, Libertarianism, Retributivism, Deterrence, Secular atonement


Criminal Law


How would punishment work in an ideal community, one in which the members of the community identify with one another? In this article, Professor Stephen Garvey argues that punishment in such a community would be understood as a form of secular penance and would form part of the process by which the wrongdoer atones for his wrongdoing. Compared to this account of punishment, which Garvey calls "punishment as atonement," other accounts fall short. The older and dominant approaches of utilitarianism and retributivism offer justifications for punishment that ignore the goal of atonement. Newer approaches, restorativism and libertarianism, recognize the importance of atonement but fail to recognize that securing atonement requires punishment. Punishment as atonement captures both critical insights: The goal of punishment should be atonement, but atonement requires punishment.

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Published in: University of California at Los Angeles Law Review, vol. 46, no. 6 (August 1999).

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