retributive justice | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

Retributive justice is a model of criminal justice based on the punishment of offenders rather than other goals, such as rehabilitation.

Retributive justice is a theory of criminal justice that emphasizes punishment as a means of dealing with criminal behavior. It is often contrasted with other models of criminal justice that prioritize rehabilitation, deterrence, or restitution. Proponents of retributive justice argue that it is important to hold offenders accountable for their actions and to ensure that they receive a punishment that is proportional to the harm they have caused.

The goal of retributive justice is to punish offenders in a way that is fair and just. This means that the punishment should be proportional to the harm caused by the crime and that the offender should be treated as a responsible moral agent who is fully accountable for their actions. In practice, this often involves the imposition of prison sentences, fines, or other forms of punishment that are designed to inflict suffering on the offender as a way of expressing society’s disapproval of their behavior.

One of the key assumptions of retributive justice is that punishment is a legitimate response to criminal behavior. Proponents of this model argue that it is necessary to punish offenders in order to maintain social order and deter others from engaging in criminal behavior. They also believe that punishment serves a moral function by expressing society’s condemnation of criminal behavior and by reaffirming the importance of respecting the law.

Critics of retributive justice argue that it is a flawed model of criminal justice that does not effectively address the underlying causes of criminal behavior. They argue that punishment alone does not reduce crime rates and that a focus on rehabilitation, education, and social programs is necessary to prevent crime from occurring in the first place. Additionally, they argue that retributive justice can be unfair and disproportionately impact marginalized communities who are more likely to be targeted by law enforcement and subjected to harsher punishments.

Despite these criticisms, retributive justice remains a popular model of criminal justice in many countries around the world. Supporters of this model believe that punishment is a necessary and legitimate response to criminal behavior and that it serves as a deterrent to would-be offenders. They also believe that punishment is a way of expressing society’s moral values and reinforcing the importance of respecting the law.

Learn More

On This Site

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified:  04/26/2023

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.