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Death and Other PenaltiesPhilosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration$
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Geoffrey Adelsberg, Lisa Guenther, and Scott Zeman

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823265299

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823265299.001.0001

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Punishment, Desert, and Equality

Punishment, Desert, and Equality

A Levinasian Analysis

Chapter:
(p.141) Punishment, Desert, and Equality
Source:
Death and Other Penalties
Author(s):

Benjamin S. Yost

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823265299.003.0009

This chapter offers philosophical support for sentencing reform by defending the claim that the disproportionate application of punishment to disadvantaged social groups is unjust. After describing the noncomparativist challenge in more detail, it argues that Levinasian conceptions of desert and responsibility enable a theory of penal justice according to which comparative considerations have priority over noncomparative ones. In so doing, it shows that the noncomparativist challenge can be met. The chapter concludes by considering whether Levinasian conceptions of desert and responsibility show members of socially advantaged groups to be more blameworthy for their wrongdoing than members of disadvantaged groups. It argues that the advantaged are more blameworthy for committing crimes that are equal in severity to crimes committed by the disadvantaged.

Keywords:   incarceration, punishment, sentencing reform, Levinasian conceptions, disadvantaged social groups, penal justice

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