For Capital Punishment: Crime and the Morality of the Death Penalty

Basic Books, 1979; reprinted, University Press of America, 1991.

This distinguished constitutional theorist takes a hard look at current criminal law and the Supreme Court’s most recent decisions regarding the legality of capital punishment. Examining the penal system, capital punishment, and punishment in general, he reviews the continuing debate about the purpose of punishment for deterrence, rehabilitation, or retribution. He points out that the steady moderation of criminal law has not effected a corresponding moderation in criminal ways or improved the conditions under which men must live. He decries the “pious sentiment” of those who maintain that criminals need to be rehabilitated. He concludes that the real issue is not whether the death penalty deters crime, but that in an imperfect universe, justice demands the death penalty.

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