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Imprisonable Offenses

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image of Journal of Moral Philosophy

Imprisonment imposes very substantial losses and deprivations on people convicted of crimes. The question for which crimes imprisonment is an appropriate sanction is addressed employing both retributive and crime reduction approaches to the justification of legal punishment. Although there is not complete convergence between what the two approaches imply about its use, it is argued that both would reserve imprisonment for serious offenses, ones that inflict or threaten significant harms with moderate to high levels of culpability. Thus, neither approach supports the current use of imprisonment to sanction a range of lesser offenses.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA, USA, Email:


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