Punishment and Legitimacy

  • Rok HacinEmail author
  • Gorazd Meško
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Criminology book series (BRIEFSCRIMINOL)


Throughout history, the punishment of offenders has been removed from public view and become the most hidden element of criminal justice proceedings. Depriving the public of the spectacle of physical punishment was, indeed, a necessary step towards the progressive humanization of punishment. However, exclusion of the public has come at a price in the form of reduced control over the process of punishment when it is excessive. In the present day, prisons are institutions of society that constitute a legally sanctioned and hence formally legitimate form of punishment. Rothman (1971) stated that a sentence to imprisonment is a legitimate form of punishment in modern society, as its first task is to return society to perfect order. Two forms of legitimacy establish prisons as a rightful form of punishment. The first is social legitimacy, which presents a precondition to the existence of prisons, as it confers the status of a morally eligible form of punishment in modern society. The second form is the legitimacy that is established within the prison between and among prison actors. The latter form of legitimacy derives from the prisoners’ belief that authorities are trustworthy, capable, honest, and concerned about the welfare of individuals with whom they interact, and that it is necessary to accept the power of authorities and voluntarily comply with their decisions. Such a form of legitimacy is dependent on the maintenance of ongoing discussion and continuous dialogues between the power holders (prison workers) and the recipients of their authoritative directives (prisoners).


Punishment History Imprisonment Legitimacy Dialogue 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Criminal Justice and SecurityUniversity of MariborMariborSlovenia

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