DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S032-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 22, 2024, from

1. Corrective justice

There is general agreement that a just punishment should meet the following criteria. First, it should be imposed only on a properly convicted wrongdoer. Second, the quantum of suffering should satisfy the principle of ordinal proportionality. This means, as Hirsch (1990) has put it, that ‘persons convicted of crimes of comparable gravity should receive punishments of comparable severity’ except where mitigating or aggravating circumstances alter the culpability of the offender. Third, the quantum of suffering should satisfy the principle of cardinal proportionality: there should be a vertical ranking of crimes and penalties by seriousness.

There is, however, disagreement over the justification for punishment, and this makes it controversial how ‘seriousness’, ‘severity’ and ‘culpability’ are assessed and how the scale of penalties should be fixed. Those who appeal to deterrence may regard a widespread and socially disruptive crime as serious (whatever its degree of moral wrongness), and favour a scale of penalties designed to deter criminality. Those who favour retribution, however, have traditionally regarded seriousness as a factor of moral culpability and the scale of penalties as being derived from some notion of desert (see Crime and punishment).

Citing this article:
Barry, Brian and Matt Matravers. Corrective justice. Justice, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S032-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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