An Expressive Theory of Punishment by William Wringe

By William Wringe

This e-book argues that punishment's functionality is to speak a message approximately an offenders' wrongdoing to society at huge. It discusses either 'paradigmatic' instances of punishment, the place a nation punishes its personal voters, and non-paradigmatic instances corresponding to the punishment of agencies and the punishment of conflict criminals via foreign tribunals.

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30 29 Hearings under the Mental Health Act, or similar legislation in other countries might be regarded as having some kind of quasi-judicial aspect to them. But, importantly, doctors are not asked to make any judgment as to whether there has been any kind of wrongdoing, but only of whether an individual is dangerous or not. 30 We can infer that it is not a response to wrongdoing from the fact that we would not judge the response mistaken if we found that the individual who is being confined is not culpable.

There is no reason why a penitent offender could not regard themselves as being appropriately treated as a member of a type – particularly if they understood the rationale for that treatment as being along the lines which a communicative theorist of punishment would suggest. Treating an individual as a member of a type involves no disrespect for their rational nature. A rational being is one that is capable of recognizing and responding in ways that are sensitive to the force of rational considerations.

33 Arrest and pre-trial detention of suspected criminals certainly involves treatment which I call harsh. However, these are arguably not responses to wrongdoing, but to reasonable suspicions of wrongdoing, since the innocent can (legitimately) be arrested. One might object that by the same token that post-trial incarceration is not a response to wrongdoing either, since one can be found guilty and incarcerated even if one is in fact innocent. However, the cases are disanalogous. To see why, notice that the word ‘response’ is normatively freighted here, in a way that other similar words (such as the word ‘reaction’ on some readings) are not.

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