When does a punishment for crime cross from being a legitimate goal of the state to a dignity taking? From the Norman Conquest until the middle of the eighteenth-century, the Common Law provided that in addition to execution, the property of convicted felons or traitors was forfeited to the crown and their blood corrupted so that their heirs could not inherit. I argue this is a clear instance of dignity takings. The colonists who traveled to Massachusetts Bay wanted a fresh start and so sought to create a model society based on Biblical law. Using around 6,000 criminal cases from 1630 to 1683 this paper argues that a different form of dignity takings ensued. The use of “scarlet letters,” pillorying, whipping, and other public punishment were all designed to single out unworthy members of the community. I push Atuahene’s concept of dignity takings by expanding the idea of a dignity taking to include not only the destruction of real or personal property but also the destruction of peoples’ actual bodies.
John F. Acevedo,
Dignity Takings in the Criminal Law of Seventeenth-Century England and the Massachusetts Bay Colony,
Chi.-Kent L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol92/iss3/5