Legal Theory 15 (2):67-105 (2009)

Retributive restrictions are principles of justice according to which what a criminal deserves on account of his individual conduct and character restricts how states are morally permitted to treat him. The main arguments offered in defense of retributive restrictions involve thought experiments in which the state punishes the innocent, a practice known as telishment. In order to derive retributive restrictions from the wrongness of telishment, one must engage in moral argument from generalization. I show how generalization arguments of the same form can be used subversively to derive morally unacceptable conclusions from other scenarios in which the state intentionally inflicts undeserved coercion. For example, our considered moral convictions approve of punishment policies that inflict collateral damage, such as the ubiquitous policy of excluding the family members of inmates from prison facilities outside visiting hours. I present a generalization argument for the conclusion that these policies are seriously unjust. If we firmly believe that these policies are not unjust, then we should put less stock in generalization arguments. We should not use them to support retributive restrictions. This conclusion has broad implications for the theory and practice of criminal justice.
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DOI 10.1017/S1352325209090107
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