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Why Do We Punish and Whom Should We Punish?

    Editors of modern Criminal Law case books are virtually unanimous in how they organize text material. Case books begin with an overview of the criminal justice system, including topics like burden of proof at trial, the presumption of innocence, and similar procedural concerns. That material provides helpful background to first year law students. After an introduction to criminal justice, most texts turn to the topic of punishment. That is, editors explore why we punish and whom we punish.

    Texts vary in how they present the material. Some offer a summary of different philosophical justifications for punishment. Others provide excerpts from prominent scholars and philosophers. But typically, all lay out the typical justifications for punishment, including retribution, deterrence (specific and general), and rehabilitation, among others.

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