Hate and Punishment

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According to legal expressivism, neither crime nor punishment consists merely in intentionally imposing some kind of harm on another. Crime and punishment also have an expressive aspect. They are what they are in part because they enact attitudes toward others—in the case of crime, some kind of disrespect, at least, and in the case of punishment, society’s condemnation or reprobation. Punishment is justified, at least in part, because (and when) it uniquely expresses fitting condemnation or other retributive attitude. What makes retributive attitudes fitting is that they protect the victim’s status as inviolable. Hate or bias crimes dramatize the expressive aspect of crime, as they are often designed to send a message to the victim’s group and society at large. Treating the enactment of contempt and denigration toward a historically underprivileged group as an aggravating factor in sentencing may be an appropriate way to counter this message, as it reaffirms and indeed realizes the fundamental equality and inviolability of all members of a democratic community.
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Archival date: 2014-10-22
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