Law and Philosophy

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 459–483

Why Retributivists Should Endorse Leniency in Punishment


    • Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Gothenburg

DOI: 10.1007/s10982-012-9147-0

Cite this article as:
Duus-Otterström, G. Law and Philos (2013) 32: 459. doi:10.1007/s10982-012-9147-0


This paper develops a retributivist argument for leniency in punishment. It argues that even retributivists who defend desert-based punishment have a reason, internal to their view, to prefer more lenient over more severe punishments when there are doubts concerning how much punishment an offender deserves. This is because retributivists should take an asymmetrical view to underpunishment and overpunishment, and because the likelihood of overpunishment goes up with the severity of punishment. The radicalness of the ensuing leniency depends on the strength of the asymmetry in value between underpunishment and overpunishment.

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012