That’s the question asked in an interesting post at the OUP Blog by Nicola Lacey (LSE) and Hannah Pickard (Birmingham). They write:
What would the shape of penal philosophy and criminal justice practice be like with forgiveness in place as a guiding ideal? We think that it is possible to draw on evolutionary psychology to offer an account of forgiveness and also to show how it can be institutionalised. Interpersonal reparative behaviours can be adapted to criminal justice institutions, suggesting a host of practical reforms at the trial, sentencing and penal stages. Additionally, it is likely that broader social and institutional conditions may make it easier for societies to punish with forgiveness as opposed to blame – such as political systems which foster a long term policy horizon and a consensus orientation in political debate, high levels of trust in social and political institutions, and high levels of social equality and inclusion. In our view, there is ample reason to believe not only that punishment ought to be reconceived as incorporating forgiveness but that, under certain conditions, to a significant extent in practice it can be.