I'm going to start using the political blog not just for partisan politics (which it mostly was during the Presidential election campaign), but for anything on matters pertaining to government, law, and politics.
Eugene Volokh on "Punishing Monsters". Eugene wrote an earlier post expressing support for using punishment that many would deem cruel in extreme cases, such as someone who raped toddlers. In defending his position, he manages to come up with a pretty compelling set of reasons why it's not necessarily wrong. As always, the devil's in the details, as his conclusion indicates:
One can certainly reach a different judgment than I do: Even if one thinks there's some moral benefit to executing the Eichmanns or even the serial rapist-killers, one might say that the benefit is small enough that it's exceeded by the risk of error, and the very serious moral cost of that error. As I mentioned at the outset, I am keenly aware that I may be wrong on this general question, and the matter that causes me the most trouble is precisely this one. Yet my tentative current sense is that for a small number of extraordinarily monstrous crimes, the need for retribution is so strong — and the risk of error can be made so low — that not just death but deliberately painful death is the proper punishment.