Capital Punishment Theory: Paradigm And Retribution

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. The Paradigm and Retribution
The term "retribution" is used in punishment theory to convey a variety of meanings. In the context of administration of capital punishment, retribution can best be understood if its three separate meanings are kept distinct. Retribution is sometimes equated with vengeance to refer to punishment inflicted in a wholly emotional manner. It is also used to describe nonutilitarian theories of punishment based on justice and desert. In its third sense, the term retribution describes punishment that serves a utilitarian purpose: to vent public disgust toward criminals and, as a consequence, to increase respect for the law and eliminate the likelihood that citizens will "take the law into their own hands." Whatever meaning is attached to retribution, the paradigm does not become less desirable than other modes of capital punishment on "retributive" grounds. It is an inappropriate application of the criminal sanction to impose a crueler sanction simply to inflict more suffering upon the offender. Retributive
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Apart from the fact that cathartic retribution is dubious justification for punishment, there seems little reason to believe that it is necessary to favor present modes of execution over the paradigm in order to prevent people from taking the law into their own hands. It can just as easily be argued that executions through cruel methods encourage public brutality and disrespect for the law. In the past, lynchings seemed to occur more often in states that employed the traditional modes of execution than in jurisdictions that had abolished capital punishment. Because a significant proportion of the public favors abolition of capital punishment, any execution could inspire public resentment of the legal system, particularly if the capital punishment were performed in an unnecessarily cruel
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