Cesare Beccaria e la pena dell’ergastolo
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Cesare Beccaria – whose most celebrated book “Dei delitti e delle pene” was published 250 years ago – is unanimously considered one of the founding fathers of Modern Criminal Law. Such a reputation is the consequence, among others, of his fight against the death penalty and any other form of inhuman or cruel treatment. Nevertheless, Beccaria in his famous booklet, declares to be in favour of life imprisonment, considering such a penalty as being particular effective, due to its intimidation and deterrence effects. Most of the legal scholars have considered this position to be either irrelevant, for it is only concerned with the research of a legal substitute to the death penalty, or commendable, for it is in contradiction with the notion of humanity Beccaria declares to inspire himself. This paper, following the analysis of Michel Foucault, suggests a different interpretation: life imprisonment is neither irrelevant nor contradictory in Beccaria, but is the consequence of the rationale of punishment in the XVIII century when utilitarianism had a prominent role. In that time the concept of humanity was irrespective of the single individuals and it was only conceived as a limit to the exercise of power.
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