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Easton & Piper: Sentencing and Punishment 4e

Chapter 4: Guidance for end-of-chapter questions

At the end of chapter 4 you were given:

  1. Discussion questions focusing on utilitarianism
  2. A case study about John Demjanjuk.

A. Discussion questions

  1. From a utilitarian standpoint, what are, or should be, the key purposes of punishment?
  2. Is harsher punishment effective in reducing re-offending?
  3. Consider the problems raised by utilitarian approaches to punishment.


  1. You should focus on the specific purposes of deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation.
  2. You should refer to the empirical research which explores the links between severity of punishment and deterrence.
  3. You could consider whether deterrence works in light of the findings discussed in Chapter 4. You could also refer to the theoretical problems and the implications of the theory for the protection of human rights.

B. Problem scenario/Case study

At the end of Chapter 4 you were invited to reflect on the following scenario in order to clarify the differences between the utilitarian approach considered in Chapter 4 and the retributivist approach discussed in Chapters 2 and 3.  You were asked to consider whether the decision to prosecute Demjanjuk was correct and to give reasons for your answer.

Following lengthy deportation and extradition proceedings, John Demjanjuk was extradited from the United States to Germany in 2009 on 27,900 counts of being an accessory to murder, based on allegations of his involvement, as a camp guard,   in the murder of prisoners at Sobihor Concentration Camp in Poland in 1943. He had lived in the United States with his family since 1952 and worked as a car worker. At the time of his extradition he was aged 89 and in poor health. He had unsuccessfully challenged his extradition on the ground of being too ill to travel and had arrived in court in a wheelchair and on a stretcher.  At his trial in Munich he was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to five years in prison.  He was released pending an appeal against his conviction and died in a nursing home in 2012 aged 91, before his appeal could be heard.  


In answering this question from a utilitarian perspective you need to consider the aims and possible consequences of the successful prosecution of the accused.  Was it intended and likely to achieve general or specific deterrence or assist in the rehabilitation of the offender?  Was it necessary to protect the public? Who should be included in these calculations? If we weigh up the costs and benefits how should we proceed? Should the fact that the accused was very elderly and in poor health have affected the decision or not? You may also wish to consider the same scenario from a retributivist standpoint.