Three Perspectives on the Ethics of Punishment



7th LUMEN International Conference –  Multidimensional Education and Professional Development. Ethical Values – MEPDEV 2015– Copyright © 2015

FORMAT | Presented paper              

LANGUAGE | English

HOW TO CITE| SANDU, Antonio. (2015). Three Perspectives on the Ethics of Punishment. Prezentată în cadrul Sesiunii Plenare la 7th LUMEN International Conference –  Multidimensional Education and Professional Development. Ethical Values – MEPDEV 2015, 12th – 14th November 2015, Târgoviște, România.

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In this article we aim to achieve a clarification of the ethical foundations and of penal philosophies which construct today the idea of criminal punishment: retributive justice, utilitarian justice, justice centered on human rights and restorative justice. Retributive justice, classic paradigm of punishment understanding, stemming from the law of retaliation is grounded on reciprocity, being based on distributive justice model, the purpose of punishment is retribution of the perpetrator for the act committed.
The principles of distributive justice sanction particularly the intention done or the neglect that could be foreseen, the consequences of the fact being rather important in the sentence, than apportioning the blame.
Utilitarian justice shows that the purpose of applying the sanction is to prevent commission of further offenses, the penalty utilitarian theory being based on deterrence, rehabilitation and incapacitation of person to commit new crimes. Unlike retributive justice which is past-oriented, utilitarian justice paradigm -consequentialist- is oriented towards the future.
Human rights oriented justice proposes a synthesis of retributive principle of proportionality, together with the rehabilitation of the offender, to which are added utilitarian elements relating to the personality of the offender. Restorative justice is based on the idea that the role of punishment is to facilitate rehabilitation, theorists making the State co-responsible for rehabilitation. The theory of communicative action shows that process of obtaining consensus, in general of social reflective equilibrium, where the involved parts show their ability of moral agent, while others assume themselves / are assigned the role of moral patient, persons unable to make their own voice heard – their point of view, aspirations, needs. Restorative justice theories focus on social construction of autonomy and responsibility of the offender in the process of interaction with the victim, or even with other people who have taken their personal history, a victimizing position.


perspectives on ethics of punishment, ethics, punishments.