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In this article, I return to the origins of J. Glover’s chapter on the death penalty in Causing Death and Saving Lives, that is, a 1957 article by Hart, “Murder and the Principles of Punishment: England and the United States.” In this article, Hart defends, like Glover, the abolition of the death penalty by relying on a utilitarian strategy consisting in, inter alia, reversing the burden of proof: as long as we do not have the proof that the death sentence can save more lives than prison, we will not be allowed to use it, since it is prima facie a greater evil than prison. In fact, it causes greater harm, is more expensive and is not remissible. More than fifty years after the publication of this article, we still have no proof of a greater effectiveness of the death penalty. Some studies even suggest that the death penalty could be harmful and have a brutalizing effect. Throughout my article, I explore the strengths and weaknesses of the utilitarian approach to criminal sanctions, which I oppose, following Hart and Glover, with two other approaches: the pacifist approach and the retributive approach.
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