Proportionality in Punishment

  • Youngjae LeeEmail author


When the US Supreme Court decided in Graham v. Florida that the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits a sentence of life in prison without parole for a nonhomicide crime committed by a minor, it stated that “[t]he concept of proportionality is central to the Eighth Amendment” and that it is the “precept of justice that punishment for crime should be graduated and proportioned to [the] offense.” These statements make two claims—one legal and one philosophical. The philosophical claim is that justice requires proportionality in punishment, and the legal claim is that this principle of justice is central to the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishments. The aim of this chapter is to examine the concept of proportionality in punishment from multiple vantage points—practical, legal, and philosophical—and consider its enduring importance and persistent difficulties.



The author thanks Larry Alexander, Vincent Chiao, Antje du Bois-Pedain, and Adam Kolber for very helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fordham University School of LawNew YorkUSA

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