Punishment as Crime Prevention

  • Whitley R. P. Kaufman
Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 104)


The deterrence theory of punishment is more accurately called the crime prevention theory, as deterrence is one of several possible methods of inflicting harm for the sake of crime prevention. Deterrence includes General Deterrence (punishing one person to influence others) and Specific Deterrence (punishing one person to deter him from committing future wrongs). Other methods include incapacitation (physically preventing the wrongdoer from committing future crimes) and rehabilitation (inculcating moral values in the wrongdoer in order that he not commit future wrongs). The basic objection to any crime prevention theory is that it appears to presuppose the utilitarian moral theory. But it is widely accepted that utilitarianism is an unacceptable moral theory, for it violates basic moral intuitions such as the principle that one may not use people ameans to the greater social good, or that the end does not justify the means. If the utilitarian theory is rejected, then specific and general deterrence must be rejected as well. However, incapacitation and rehabilitation do not presuppose the utilitarian moral theory. They can rather be accommodated within a deontological moral theory, so long as it incorporates the Doctrine of Double Effect. Thus it turns out that at least these two methods, contrary to the Abolitionists, can be morally justified. Still, it seems clear that the most fundamental rationalization for punishment is retributive.


Death Penalty Crime Prevention Moral Theory Great Good Innocent Person 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Whitley R. P. Kaufman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Massachusetts LowellLowellUSA

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