Alexander Guerrero


The law marks a significant difference between violent and non-violent criminal actions. Violent crimes are typically met with more severe punishments and consequences than non-violent crimes. Even in discussions of criminal justice reform, the refrain remains: violent crime is different; those convicted of violent crimes are different; and it is appropriate to respond to violent crime differently. This article argues that the violent/non-violent distinction cannot bear the normative weight placed on it and that we should jettison violence and move to thinking about objectionable harm caused and risked. There are moral constraints on punishment from considerations of proportionality and equality, these are connected to wrongful harm and facts about agent culpability, and there is no consistent relationship between violence and wrongful harm nor between violence and culpability. The article concludes by offering an error-theory concerning our commitment to treating violent crime differently and suggests that morally better categorizations are available.