Punishment Research Paper Essay

There have been four types of justification for punishment throughout the years of society. From older punishments such as retribution to more modern punishments like societal protection, all have been put in place to protect society and to punish individuals for their deviant acts. To find out which type of justification for punishment is most effective, one needs to know how each work and the impact these punishments have on society. The first and oldest type of justification for punishment is retribution. An eye for an eye is the best example of retribution.

The idea of this type of punishment is to make the criminal suffer as much as he or she has made their victims suffer. The justice system feels that retribution will rule out the need for “street justice” or the cause for others to commit crimes while seeking vengeance and disrupting society further. The problem with enforcing retribution is making sure the punishment fits the crime. Retribution in a murder case means the one who committed the crime should pay for that crime with his or her life. If a thief steals something from a person, what should the criminal’s punishment be?

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Who says that a certain punishment is enough or not enough, and is it morally correct? Why is it that society needs some type of revenge for a punishment when nothing can change the fact that the crime was committed? Another type of justification for punishment that society has encountered is deterrence. Society needs a type of balance for people to feel comfortable. When a crime is committed, it disrupts this balance and people have the need for someone to pay for the actions taken so that the balance can be equal once more. Deterrence helps keep that balance by putting fear into people.

The fear that a person will get caught committing a crime will have to face punishment for their actions will keep them from doing the wrong thing. In the 18th century, punishments were displayed for everyone to see which made people think about the consequences of their actions. Hangings, shooting lines, and mutilations were just some forms of punishment that were displayed for everyone to see. This was a form of general deterrence; punishing one person to serve as an example to others. Another form of deterrence is specific deterrence, what tries to convince one person that crime is not the way to go.

In today’s world, fear of imprisonment most often will deter people away from deviant acts. Another area that deters people from committing crimes in today’s society is by fear of having a criminal record, which will affect employment and other things that society may look down on. Deterring sends a message to people that they would get in trouble if the commit crimes. One thing that was not present in the 18th century was rehabilitation; this was brought up in the 19th century. The idea of rehabilitation is to change how an offender may act into a more socially acceptable individual.

Since some people were taught how to be bad or deviant, they’re thinking can be altered into learning how to do the right thing through rehabilitation. Just like a drug addict thinks they need drugs to live or function properly, some criminals think they need to commit deviant acts no matter what society thinks of them. Both need rehabilitation to change the way they think. Just like deterrence, rehabilitation tries to form the way people act so they can continue or enter back into society without being a threat to other people.

For some though, rehabilitation does not work, it is just another way to be released from prison early so offenders can continue with their deviant behavior, but programs do work for others. The person would have to want to be rehabilitated in order for it to work; if they are not ready the rehabilitation will not be successful. The fourth and final justification for punishment is societal protection. This is the imprisonment of an offender that has performed a deviant act for a period of time. This form of justification is not only for the punishment of a criminal, but to keep balance and protect society from deviant behavior.

This goes back to retribution and the question, does the punishment fit the crime? These four types of justification for punishment have all deterred crime effectively one way or another. As for which one of these deters crime most effectively, I would have to say deterrence is the best way. Like the 18th century, when societies were able to watch as criminals paid with their lives for the crimes that they have done was a huge impact on how society looks at the penalties for deviant behavior. We have the same affect with what we see and hear in today’s world as capital punishment became present.

To know that the punishment for murder can cost you your life by lethal injection and the electric chair, or contribute to life in prison is enough deterrence for most people to not commit these acts. However along with deterrence, there must be education to people, teaching people that the life of crime is not a successful life, that there are other things they can do with their life besides crime, even if it’s all they know. This then plays into retribution. Most murder victims families want to see the person that committed the crime to have the same fate by the state.

This is just another form of vengeance, and it sometimes makes the victims family feel better after the individual pays for their crimes. I do believe that the consequences of punishment do provide benefits for criminals and society. Like I mentioned before, society needs a kind of balance to stay level in the world. When a deviant act is committed, society demands that someone should pay for those acts. If crimes were to go without punishment, then there would be no need to think of what consequences may come from a crime.

However, there are special circumstances that certain crimes are justified. But if there was no harsh penalties, then more people would be tempted to do things they normally wouldn’t because there would not be any penalty for what they have done. One main area that criminals could see being benefited for their actions is actually being put in jail. Free food, free schooling, are some of the advantages they receive, and it is all on the tax payer to provide for them. We pay for these criminals to do these things so we can keep them out of society so we can feel safer.

Another area where criminals benefit from the consequences of their crimes is through rehabilitation. Receiving free counseling so they may enter back into society can be looked at as a benefit for both the criminal and society because of the hope that they will not fall into the same patterns. In conclusion, the question still remains, does punishment deter crime? Nothing will ever completely rule out crime, it has been and will always be a part of every society. Punishment is the only way to keep civilized societies from crumbling.


Crime and Punishment. Economist.com (2008, January 17). Retrieved August 1, 2009, from http://swtuopproxy.museglobal.com/MuseSessionID=98405fddd8149f9e726b3676f47d665c/MuseHost=www.economist.com/MusePath/businessfinance/displayStory.cfm?story_id=E1_TDVPQTTV

The Economist. (1999, May 13). The Cruel and Ever More Unusal Punishment. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from http://swtuopproxy.museglobal.com/MuseSessionID=e5ba5adcb467e828deeb76f25bd365/MuseHost=www.economist.com/MusePath/books/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_NDQJPR

Death Penalty Information Center. (2009). Study: 88% of criminologists do not believe the death penalty is an effective deterrent. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from http://deathpenaltyinfo.org/study-88-criminologists-do-not-believe-death-penalty-effective-deterrent


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