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William Godwin’s moral education theory of punishment: Is it a restorative approach to justice?

Ashton Smith, Polly
June 4, 2015

Source: (2009) Justice Reflections. Issue 20(148).

This article focuses on a significant historical foundation for the contemporary restorative justice perspective on punishment and corrections. William Godwin’s views, which are characterised here as a version of the moral education theory of punishment — retribution, deterrence, and rehabilitation — that have informed correctional policy and practice since his own era, two hundred years ago. The assumptions of the moral education theory lead him to reject coercive punishment as a morally or politically viable method of social control. Instead, he outlines an approach that is based on informal control, with a least restrictive standard applied to the type and duration of coercion used to restrain offenders who threaten safety, and a set of duties owed to offender by community members. (excerpt)


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