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APPE Ethics Videos
Association for Practical and Professional Ethics
10th Annual Meeting
March 1-4, 2001


"Retributive Punishment and Reconciliatory Punishment"

Edward G. Lawry
Oklahoma State University

Edward G. Lawry

This paper argues that the revenge attitude inherent in retributive notions of punishment is incoherent based on the recognition that the agent of the avenging punishment is not of the same ontological type as the criminal, the original injuring party. Individuals are not so much represented by the state in the punishment act as they are prohibited from participating in that act. The crime may not be avenged by any individuals, but only by the state. It is possible, however, to make sense of the collective as the agent of punishment if there is a recognition that the collectivity is in some sense the perpetrator. This way leads to an idea of crime as a disturbance within the community that must be tended to, requiring a different attitude toward the criminal one of reconciliation rather than revenge. This paper makes a moral recommendation (a change of attitude) without recommending new techniques or new systems for our correctional institutions.