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#9: Penalties for Transgression

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue.

Society represents a contract between its members individually and collectively. Violations of that contract will be judged according to the rules of the society, and penalties exacted. This jotting is meant to give a quick overview of such penalties.


refers to an individual who has committed acts that are deemed unacceptable under the terms of the society’s contract.
refers to the act so deemed.



The transgressor and transgression are made public, and the members of the society publicly rebuke the transgressor for the transgression. The transgressor may be restrained, often in an uncomfortable and/or embarrassing position, and the form of the rebuke may not be strictly verbal, though it is rarely (physically) damaging. Shaming continues for either a set time, or until the transgressor expresses contrition (and is so judged to have by the members of the society).


Corporal Punishment

Corporal punishment may be considered a severe form of shaming (as it is almost universally administered publicly), in which the rebuke is definitely physical, and may (but need not) result in permanent physical effects.



The society requires the transgressor to leave the territory under the society’s control, or to live within a defined area, generally where one must work hard and very nearly continuously just to survive. Exile may be for a limited period, or it may be permanent.



A lesser form of exile. The transgressor is not required to leave the territory, but members of the society avoid intercourse with the transgressor, either for a fixed period, or (more commonly) until the transgressor chooses of his/her own will to cease the activity that prompted the shunning, execute a shaming ritual, and/or make restitution.17



Also a less extreme form of exile. The transgressor’s movements and activities are restricted and continuously monitored.



A more extreme form of exile, which may be for a limited period, or permanent. During the period of outlawry, anyone may harm or kill the transgressor with no repercussions. Used where society could not generally afford to maintain transgressors in custody, due to general hardship or low population. Its use as a penalty is mostly historical.


May be regarded as an extreme form of exile/outlawry, where the transgressor is not given the opportunity to attempt to survive outside of society; the risk to society is deemed too high, and the transgressor’s life ended. There is at present an ongoing debate about the propriety of this penalty; if society errs in applying this penalty, there is no way to correct the error, whereas any of the other penalties can be revoked.

Restitution or Recompense (Compensation)

The transgressor is expected to “undo” the transgression. Where this is not possible or practical (for example, if property has been irreparably damaged, or stolen goods have been destroyed), equivalent value is expected to be submitted.


A specific form of restitution. Where the transgression involves the loss of life or of capability to work within society, the transgressor’s own life or capability to work may be required to replace it. May be for a limited time or permanent; may or may not be transferrable. If permanent and transferrable, may be indistinguishable from slavery.


Related to restitution/recompense. Money or property is involuntarily (on government demand) given over to the party against whom the transgression was committed, or to the government. An important distinction between confiscation and restitution is that the former does not rely on actual damage/loss of assets.


A type of confiscation where the transgression is deemed insignificant enough to not warrant a custodial sentence, and shaming, shunning, or corporal penalties are unavailable or deemed inappropriate. Fines are generally established as fixed amounts based on the nature and/or severity of the transgression, and do not vary based on the transgressor’s ability to pay. Fines may accompany other penalties, or may be the sole penalty imposed, depending on the transgression.


A type of confiscation where the stated intent is to deprive the transgressor of the gains from the transgression, or to punitively remove from the transgressor’s control any tools or other assets used to enable the transgression. It is occasionally used in place of fines (where the court has such discretion) to ensure that the penalty is meaningful to a transgressor that has significant assets. There is at present an ongoing debate over the use of this penalty and the allocation of forfeited goods or their value; there is suggestive evidence that where the confiscating government directly benefits from the forfeiture, the penalty is used more often, and the value of such forfeitures may be more than can be justified by the transgression.