Social stability and justice requires that we live together according to rules. And this in turn means that the rules must be enforced. Accordingly, we sometimes see fit to punish those who break the rules. Hence society features a broad system of institutions by which we punish. But there is a deep and longstanding philosophical disagreement over what, precisely, punishment is for. The standard views are easy to anticipate. Some say that we punish in order to give offenders what they deserve. Others claim that we punish in order to encourage others to obey the rules. Still others see punishment as a process of rehabilitating offenders. Recent theorists have attempted to combine these views in various ways. The debates go on.
In his new book, Punishment (Routledge, 2012), Thom Brooks reviews the leading debates concerning punishment and makes a compelling case for a distinctive theory of punishment called the “unified theory.” Brooks contends that the unified theory can embrace several highly intuitive penal goals while avoiding the philosophical difficulties confronting each of the competing theories.