A Reconciliation Theory of State Punishment: An Alternative to Protection and Retribution

Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 91:119-139 (2022)
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Abstract

I propose a theory of punishment that is unfamiliar in the West, according to which the state normally ought to have offenders reform their characters and compensate their victims in ways the offenders find burdensome, thereby disavowing the crime and tending to foster improved relationships between offenders, their victims, and the broader society. I begin by indicating how this theory draws on under-appreciated ideas about reconciliation from the Global South, and especially sub-Saharan Africa, and is distinct from the protection and retribution theories that have dominated the Western philosophy of punishment for about 250 years. Then I argue that it neatly avoids objections to them and is prima facie plausible in its own right. I conclude that this reconciliation theory of state punishment should be taken seriously by philosophers of law and policy makers.

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Thaddeus Metz
University of Pretoria

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