The Death Penalty and Retributive Punishment

Justice is getting what one deserves, what could be simpler?’ (Hospers 1961, p.433), is a perfect statement of what retributive punishment stands for and aims to achieve through its rationale. In recent years, desert-based punishment has become the main focus of punishment – at least in the UK desert is the most popular theory today (Fletcher 1978). Desert looks to the past criminal offense. it possesses an ‘inherently retrospective logic….[an]…automatic reference back to some past event or state of affairs’ (Cottingham 1992, p. 662). Retributive punishment fundamentally notices a link between justice and desert. both are inherently important to punishment in this respect (Sher 1987). Feinburg explains the severity of punishment as according to a ‘desert base’ (1963), an aspect we appeal to in order to explain D’s level of desert – or repercussion – for his act. This concept of ‘desert base’ is grounded in culpability and wrongdoing (Von Hirsch 1976). Punishment severity is proportionate to the seriousness of the crime, which is an assessment of both culpability and of wrongdoing. It follows that the more serious the crime, the bigger the violation of social interests and therefore the higher the punishment. Desert punishment is limited by the seriousness of a crime. it expresses blame and keeps this within both moral and legal boundaries.It is a puzzle to some as to why legal systems which adopt the retributive system of punishment rarely administer the appropriate punishment for murder. If followed specifically in the ‘eye for an eye’ sense, the retributive system of punishment would employ the death penalty for murder. The culpability and blameworthiness for murder under the retributive system requires that the offender be subject to execution. he took a life, and so his just deserts would be to have his own life taken.