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University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Criminology

Empirical desert

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In Defense Of Moral Credibility, Paul H. Robinson, Lindsay Holcomb Jan 2021

In Defense Of Moral Credibility, Paul H. Robinson, Lindsay Holcomb

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The criminal justice system’s reputation with the community can have a significant effect on the extent to which people are willing to comply with its demands and internalize its norms. In the context of criminal law, the empirical studies suggest that ordinary people expect the criminal justice system to do justice and avoid injustice, as they perceive it – what has been called “empirical desert” to distinguish it from the “deontological desert” of moral philosophers. The empirical studies and many real-world natural experiments suggest that a criminal justice system that regularly deviates from empirical desert loses moral credibility and thereby ...


Undemocratic Crimes, Paul H. Robinson, Jonathan C. Wilt Jan 2021

Undemocratic Crimes, Paul H. Robinson, Jonathan C. Wilt

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

One might assume that in a working democracy the criminal law rules would reflect the community’s shared judgments regarding justice and punishment. This is especially true because social science research shows that lay people generally think about criminal liability and punishment in consistent ways: in terms of desert, doing justice and avoiding injustice. Moreover, there are compelling arguments for demanding consistency between community views and criminal law rules based upon the importance of democratic values, effective crime-control, and the deontological value of justice itself.

It may then come as a surprise, and a disappointment, that a wide range of ...


Indoctrination And Social Influence As A Defense To Crime: Are We Responsible For Who We Are?, Paul H. Robinson, Lindsay Holcomb May 2020

Indoctrination And Social Influence As A Defense To Crime: Are We Responsible For Who We Are?, Paul H. Robinson, Lindsay Holcomb

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

A patriotic POW is brainwashed by his North Korean captors into refusing repatriation and undertaking treasonous anti-American propaganda for the communist regime. Despite the general abhorrence of treason in time of war, the American public opposes criminal liability for such indoctrinated soldiers, yet existing criminal law provides no defense or mitigation because, at the time of the offense, the indoctrinated offender suffers no cognitive or control dysfunction, no mental or emotional impairment, and no external or internal compulsion. Rather, he was acting purely in the exercise of free of will, albeit based upon beliefs and values that he had not ...


Mitigations: The Forgotten Side Of The Proportionality Principle, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2020

Mitigations: The Forgotten Side Of The Proportionality Principle, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

In the first change to the Model Penal Code since its promulgation in 1962, the American Law Institute in 2017 set blameworthiness proportionality as the dominant distributive principle for criminal punishment. Empirical studies suggest that this is in fact the principle that ordinary people use in assessing proper punishment. Its adoption as the governing distributive principle makes good sense because it promotes not only the classic desert retributivism of moral philosophers but also crime-control utilitarianism, by enhancing the criminal law’s moral credibility with the community and thereby promoting deference, compliance, acquiescence, and internalization of its norms, rather than suffering ...


Democratizing Criminal Law: Feasibility, Utility, And The Challenge Of Social Change, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2017

Democratizing Criminal Law: Feasibility, Utility, And The Challenge Of Social Change, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

The notion of “democratizing criminal law” has an initial appeal because, after all, we believe in the importance of democracy and because criminal law is so important – it protects us from the most egregious wrongs and is the vehicle by which we allow the most serious governmental intrusions in the lives of individuals. Given criminal law’s special status, isn’t it appropriate that this most important and most intrusive governmental power be subject to the constraints of democratic determination?

But perhaps the initial appeal of this grand principle must give way to practical realities. As much as we are ...


The Proper Role Of Community In Determining Criminal Liability And Punishment, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2014

The Proper Role Of Community In Determining Criminal Liability And Punishment, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This essay argues that community views ought to have a central role in constructing criminal law and punishment rules, for both democratic and crime-control reasons, but ought not to have a role in the adjudication of individual cases. The differences in the American and Chinese debates on these issues are examined and discussed.


Empirical Desert, Individual Prevention, And Limiting Retributivism: A Reply, Paul H. Robinson, Joshua Samuel Barton, Matthew J. Lister Jan 2014

Empirical Desert, Individual Prevention, And Limiting Retributivism: A Reply, Paul H. Robinson, Joshua Samuel Barton, Matthew J. Lister

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

A number of articles and empirical studies over the past decade, most by Paul Robinson and co-authors, have suggested a relationship between the extent of the criminal law's reputation for being just in its distribution of criminal liability and punishment in the eyes of the community – its "moral credibility" – and its ability to gain that community's deference and compliance through a variety of mechanisms that enhance its crime-control effectiveness. This has led to proposals to have criminal liability and punishment rules reflect lay intuitions of justice – "empirical desert" – as a means of enhancing the system's moral credibility ...


"Life Without Parole" Under Modern Theories Of Punishment, Paul H. Robinson Jun 2012

"Life Without Parole" Under Modern Theories Of Punishment, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

Life without parole seems an attractive and logical punishment under the modern coercive crime-control principles of general deterrence and incapacitation, a point reinforced by its common use under habitual offender statutes like "three strikes." Yet, there is increasing evidence to doubt the efficacy of using such principles to distributive punishment. The prerequisite conditions for effective general deterrence are the exception rather than the rule. Moreover, effective and fair preventive detention is difficult when attempted through the criminal justice system. If we really are committed to preventive detention, it is better for both society and potential detainees that it be done ...


Mercy, Crime Control & Moral Credibility, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2011

Mercy, Crime Control & Moral Credibility, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

If, in the criminal justice context, "mercy" is defined as forgoing punishment that is deserved, then much of what passes for mercy is not. Giving only minor punishment to a first-time youthful offender, for example, might be seen as an exercise of mercy but in fact may be simply the application of standard blameworthiness principles, under which the offender's lack of maturity may dramatically reduce his blameworthiness for even a serious offense. Desert is a nuanced and rich concept that takes account of a wide variety of factors. The more a writer misperceives desert as wooden and objective, the ...


The Ongoing Revolution In Punishment Theory: Doing Justice As Controlling Crime, Paul H. Robinson Jan 2010

The Ongoing Revolution In Punishment Theory: Doing Justice As Controlling Crime, Paul H. Robinson

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This lecture offers a broad review of current punishment theory debates and the alternative distributive principles for criminal liability and punishment that they suggest. This broader perspective attempts to explain in part the Model Penal Code's recent shift to reliance upon desert and accompanying limitation on the principles of deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation.