Retributivism and the Inadvertent Punishment of the Innocent

TitleRetributivism and the Inadvertent Punishment of the Innocent
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1983
AuthorsAlexander, L
JournalLaw and Philosophy

Retributivism is generally thought to forbid the punishment of the innocent, even if such punishment would produce otherwise good results, such as deterrence. It has recently been argued that because capital punishment always entails the risk of executing an innocent person, instituting capital punishment is tantamount to intentionally taking innocent lives and therefore cannot be justified on retributive grounds. I argue that there are several versions of retributivism, only one of which might categorically forbid risking punishing innocent persons. I also argue that our moral practices reveal either that we do not hold this particular version of retributivism, or that we reject equating risking punishing the innocent with intentionally doing so. *** DIRECT SUPPORT *** A9102008 00005.