The final objective and perhaps the most difficult to reconcile is retribution. In Flawed Criminal Justice Policies, Frances Reddington and Gene Bonham Jr. contend that the death penalty must be applied proportionally in order to accomplish retributive justice.

“What this means is that the death penalty is applied equivalently based on the nature (heinousness) of the offense that those who commit like crimes receive like punishments, that those who commit the worst possible crimes receive the death penalty. Conversely, it means that it is reserved only for those who commit these worst possible crimes.”

They explain that factors including jury and prosecutorial discretion, racial bias, and geographical location result in disparities in the application of the penalty, saying:

“In short, some offenders who ‘deserve’ the death penalty more than others do not receive the death penalty and some offenders who don’t ‘deserve’ it as much as others do receive it. Retribution fails if only a select few … are granted retributive justice. ‘Justice’ fails to be delivered in a manner that comports with the notion that it be provided to those who most deserve it. And, those who have suffered as victims or co-victims are often left without the justice and catharsis promised to them in the form of retribution via the death penalty.”