The Purpose Of Punishment In A Modern Society

2454 words - 10 pages

Punishment has been in existence since the early colonial period and has continued throughout history as a method used to deter criminals from committing criminal acts. Philosophers believe that punishment is a necessity in today’s modern society as it is a worldwide response to crime and violence. Friedrich Nietzche’s book “Punishment and Rehabilitation” reiterates that “punishment makes us into who we are; it creates in us a sense of responsibility and the ability to take and release our social obligations” (Blue, Naden, 2001). Immanuel Kant believes that if an individual commits a crime then punishment should be inflicted upon that individual for the crime committed. Cesare Beccaria, also believes that if there is a breach of the law by individuals then that individual should be punished accordingly.

According to David Garland, punishment is a legal process where violators of the criminal law are condemned and sanctioned with specified legal categories and procedures (Garland, 1990). There are different forms and types of punishment administered for various reasons and can either be a temporary or lifelong type of punishment. Punishment can be originated as a cause from parents or teachers with misbehaving children, in the workplace or from the judicial system in which crimes are committed against the law. The main aim of punishment is to demonstrate to the public, the victim and the offender that justice is to be done, to reduce criminal activities and to deter people from wanting to commit any form of crime against the law. In other words it is a tool used to eliminate the bad in society or to deter people from committing criminal activities.

Theories of punishment indicates that criminals and lawbreakers are products of society and hence have human rights and are not to be held totally responsible for their deviant actions, instead they can be reformed and rehabilitated through the prison system and that crimes committed habitually should be considered a disease (Garland, 1990). It is through this that philosophers, government and prison officials have arrived at the five traditional goals of punishment which replicates elements of criminal punishment. They are retribution, rehabilitation, deterrence, restoration and incapacitation. Retribution, rehabilitation and deterrence are however the three most frequently used in today’s modern society, as they are the main justifications for punishment.

Retribution
The retribution punishment theory is associated with the philosopher Immanuel Kant from as far back as the eighteenth century known as the “justice model”. The concept of retributive punishment is "just deserts," used as a means of getting even with the offender, allowing the victim to feel a sense of justification by imposing the same measure of pain to the offender according to the crime committed; this will allow the victim to feel a sense of satisfaction. Though retribution is not a law of retaliation, the...

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