Wikipedia:Sanctions against editors should not be punitive
This is an essay on the blocking policy and the banning policy.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
|This page in a nutshell: Administrative sanctions against editors are not punitive, and imposed solely to prevent harm to the encyclopedia.|
Wikipedia has various actions that can be taken against editors for certain violations, including various forms of disruptive editing. These include temporary or indefinite blocks and bans. These are punishments according to common definitions: they are penalties imposed because of offenses and violations, and admins are inflicting these penalties or sanctions because of these offenses. It may seem harsh that some people are given this treatment, but it is important to remember that these sanctions are intended to be significantly preventative, not exclusively punitive.
Some editors, even some administrators on Wikipedia forget why we are here and begin to adopt a punitive model for Wikipedia politics. They support blocks, bans, and enforcement of Arbitration Committee sanctions in order to exact retribution on "bad users" rather than helping to create and improve encyclopedic content. This is regrettable and problematic, not to mention contrary to the reason for blocks, bans, and enforcements as stated in the Wikipedia guidelines and policies linked in the previous sentence. When proposing or supporting an action that could easily be interpreted to be punishment, ask yourself, "Will this action help make the content on Wikipedia better?". If the answer is not an unequivocal "yes" and you still end up supporting the action, you may be an adherent to the punitive model of Wikipedia. This may also mean you enjoy the perceived "power" that you get from enforcing your will through the various features (or bugs) of the Wikipedia community.
Administrators should follow a preventative model for their actions with a goal of curbing disruptive or harmful behavior from editors rather than trying to punish them. Topic bans, page protections and so on are in some cases more helpful to the project than indefinite blocks or community bans. Short blocks may easily be interpreted as gamy slaps on the wrist that just serve to aggravate rather than enlighten. If you have a problem with the actions of a user, why not try to discuss the matter with them before blocking? There is accountability for administrative actions.
- Punitive Preventive Justice: A Critique Bernard E. Harcourt, University of Chicago (May 2012)