Punishment and Justice

Social Theory and Practice 36 (1):78-111 (2010)
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Should the state punish its disadvantaged citizens who have committed crimes? Duff has recently argued that where disadvantage persists the state loses its authority to hold individuals to account and to punish for criminal wrongdoings. I here scrutinize Duff’s argument for the claim that social justice is a precondition for the legitimacy of state punishment. I sharpen an objection to Duff’s argument: with his framework, we seem unable to block the implausible conclusion that where disadvantage persists the state lacks the authority to punish any citizen for any crime. I then set out an alternative line of argument in support of the claim that social deprivation can threaten the states legitimate punitive authority. I argue that a penal system must incorporate certain proportionality principles, and that these principles cannot both be met where citizens suffer from deprivation.
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Archival date: 2010-09-30
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