The Impact of Incarceration on Moral Agency
The U.S Model Penal Code (MPC) states that retribution—the notion that by punishing a criminal offender he gets his moral “just deserts”—is the primary justification for criminal punishment. However, the MPC indicates that other purposes may also be considered, including deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation. The MPC uses a sentencing model called limiting retributivism, whereby forward-looking principles of punishment aimed at decreasing crime can be considered with the upper limit of proportional punishment set by retributivism. The “father” of limiting retributivism, Norval Morris, argued that the imposition of punishment should also obey the principle of parsimony—that is, the sentence imposed should be no more severe than necessary to achieve its purposes. This paper will explore the ways in which the state can inflict punishment under limiting retributivism in a way that fulfills the notion of “just deserts” while utilizing the forward-looking principle of rehabilitation to mitigate harmful effects on moral agency related to burdensome and condemnatory treatment of offenders.
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