Thoughts on Punishment

I was asked by a friend my thoughts on punishment. I haven't given punishment for punishment's sake too much thought. Justified punishment, as in "proportionality" I have. I like Kinsella's approach, the estoppel approach.

My gut reaction... restitution, of course... and for me personally, forgiveness after restitution. I think it should be up to the victim as far as whether or not to "punish" or to seek restitution. How far can punishment go? It can't exceed proportion, but I think it's justified, in theory. In practice, it's more difficult because although a victim may be 100% certain of his offender, those enforcing a punishment can't be, so I don't know if they would be justified in doing so. Maybe as an agent for the victim? I wouldn't want that job, for sure, because of the uncertainty, etc.

I like considering non-violent forms of punishment as well, such as social ostracism, blacklisting, reputation smearing, etc. I think in a free society reputation would be more important than it is now. Libel/slander wouldn't be illegal, ie. free speech, so people would be naturally more skeptical of wild claims, but true claims I think would filter through that and be enough of a deterrent.

Plus, there's less to be a criminal for in a free society. It'd be more prosperous, etc., less reasons to resort to crime, etc. That with non-violent forms of punishment, and restitution-based justice, I think it'd be mostly a non-issue in a free society.

Update: Although I'd say punishment would be ethically justified as explored above... I don't know that it would be beneficial to society. It's sort of an unknown. If a murderer is truly remorseful, who knows what he could go on to become? Consider Paul of the New Testament. He was a murderer (martyred Stephen), and went on to become a great benefactor to society (if you consider his service as an Apostle a benefit, I happen to).

As a deterrent? Again, in a free society I think you'd have less crime and the crime you did have, you'd have non-violent deterrents. I don't know, honestly. If I were a free market judge and it was my call, and the victim wanted proportional punishment, I may do it, and see how it's received by the rest of society, if my reputation was hurt or helped by it, and whether or not that reputation would be a deterrent for future criminals. Can that even be measured? I don't know. I think it would be difficult to measure, really difficult.