Crime Punishment


Crime punishment is an important part of a modern society that helps to keep an order and safety. Countries that fail to punish their citizens for non-normative behaviors have higher crime levels. This happens because criminals see that they can do everything they want and nobody penalizes them for this. Victims of criminal acts also suffer when authorities do not punish their offenders because they want revenge and fairness. Finally, society needs to see that criminal laws work and people that violate accepted norms of behavior are penalized.

In general, crime punishment has a long history. From the ancient times, people have tried to set some rules of conduct and watch how these rules are observed. Today, the crime punishment is perceived as a tool for achieving deterrence, rehabilitation and retribution. Deterrent effect of crime punishment is particularly important in societies where people make their decisions under the influence of fear because this discourages them penalties discourage them to make something wrong. The opportunity of crime punishment is also important for the society because it helps to restore fairness and provide satisfaction to all people involved in the criminal act. If crimes are punished, criminals can get rehabilitation, particularly in the eyes of the public and their families. To better understand the essence of crime punishment, it is necessary to analyze its three benefits.

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First, crime punishment is deterrence from further crimes because people avoid doing some actions due to disgust to the potential outcomes of those actions. In the context of crimes, this means that people are afraid of possible consequences for committing a crime, so they have less desire to make something wrong. However, this theory is not as simply as it looks. For example Walker says that despite positive outcomes of crime punishment, it is difficult to determine if it is caused by the kind of penalty or by its rigidity. From the utilitarian point of view, crime punishment may be justified only if it helps to avoid greater harm than the harm that is imposed on the offender by penalties. Otherwise, punishment only increases the amount of suffering on the planet. Therefore, supporters of utilitarian position conclude that the aim of punishment is not to allow an offender to make new crimes and to discourage others to perform similar actions. They concentrate on the ability of punishment to decrease crime and not try to use punishment as the way to impose some responsibilities on criminals. From the point of view of utilitarians, a “correct” punishment is a penalty that is positive for the overall welfare of all people that have some connections to the criminal act. However, there is a risk that such approach would lead to punishment of innocent people. The problem is that utilitarians are too focused on increasing the welfare of everybody, so they might punish all people that prevent from achieving this objective.

However, the deterrent effect of crime punishment depends on many factors. On one hand, people are rational creatures, so before making certain actions they evaluate the possibilities of receiving pain and pleasure. If they see that the risk of punishment and further pain is greater than the potential gains from crime, they choose not to commit crime. However, fear of punishment is not critical for all people; particularly many people do not commit crimes because of certain moral prohibitions and norms of behavior. Moreover, some experts argue that criminals actually do not tend to make rational decisions and commit crimes due to their emotional instability, absence of self-control or obtaining some features of criminal subcultures. Besides, people’s attitudes also depend on the type of crime. For example, such crimes as murder or drunk driving have different nature, so it is not reasonable to make generalizations towards penalties for their committing. Besides, it is important whether a person has a previous experience of committing crimes or not. It seems that potential criminals are more afraid of punishment than those whose have made something illegal earlier.

Overall, despite the variety of approaches to deterrent effect of crime punishment, it is clear that the amount of crimes would dramatically increase if penalties were cancelled. Although the punishment cannot prevent all the crimes, it can make some amount of people think before doing something wrong. Absence of any crime would cause complete anarchy. For example, in countries where people are not punished due to high level of corruption or other factors, the amount of crime is much higher than in the counties where people get punishment for their improper behavior. Therefore, justification of crime punishment by deterrent effect is objective.


Crime punishment is also believed to provide retribution. In particular, Duff and other philosophers believe that punishment has the most significant value for the offender. For example, it restores him/her for the community. This resembles penance that is used in the religion. Besides, retributive punishment looks as a message from people whose values are believed to be correct to those who demonstrate improper behaviors and wrong values. Humans belong to rule-making animals that obtain their rules and understanding of rules in the childhood. Rules form codes of normative behavior, which also involve “penalizing rules” (explain the actions that are taken against people that break the rules). Therefore, absence of punishment for some crime is a violation of those rules, which leads to two infringements. One infringement is a criminal act itself and second infringement is failing to punish an offender. In the result, the criminal is not restored for the community because rules established in the childhood are not kept; particularly non-normative behavior was not penalized.

Besides, crime punishment is a retributive activity because a criminal must be treated as an individual that was unfair to others in community by performing a criminal act, and that inflicting of punishment returns the notion of fairness. Philosophers even developed a specific theory that describe this process and called it “unfair advantage theory”. For instance, supporters of this theory say that the positive side of criminal legislature is that it creates additional benefits for the public because others are not allowed to interfere in a life of individual since some activities are forbidden by law. To receive these benefits, people are supposed to control themselves and not commit actions that infringe the secured areas of the lives of other people. It means that when some individual breaks the law but continues to have his/her benefits of noninterference, she/he has an unfair advantage of people that keep the rules. Therefore, crime punishment is morally justified because it destroys this unfairness and returns justice. People can enjoy the balance of benefits and obstacles again.

Finally, crime punishment provides satisfaction. First, this refers to the victim because she/he can see that the person that brought his/her sufferings is hated by the society. The victim also gets the feeling of revenge, so he/she does not need to find for this on his/her own. If the crime is not punished, the victim is dissatisfied, which can motivate her/his to fight for own rights without a help of authorities. This can lead to further crimes. Second, other members of society also get satisfaction because they see that rules really work. Constant dissatisfaction in the society can cause protests against law enforcement especially if crimes are not punished due to corruption.


Crime punishment also involves rehabilitation of an offender. The person is believed to be reformed after punishment. Thus, the offender’s values are changed, which protects the person from committing crimes in the future. The most significant change in the offender’s mind is that now he/she understands that his/her previous behavior was wrong. This modification is more important than just the fear of punishment because the person would continue to follow the laws even if law enforcement system did not work properly. He/she now takes responsibility for own actions and behavior and does not need control from another force.

Rehabilitation also involves re-entering the society with better rights because the offender has more opportunities to start a new life without a crime. For example, criminals often get the help of psychologists, which can assist the offender in search of new life goals. The problem is that many offenders simply got lost especially. If crime punishment did not exist, they would not have these new benefits. Therefore, they would not change their lives. This would prevent them from improving their social status.

On the other hand, the ability of crime punishment to provide rehabilitation to the offender is also beneficial for the society. First, it can have positive effects on the amount of crimes. After full rehabilitation, the offender does not start committing criminal acts again. Second, the unemployment rates reduce because offenders are more motivated to work instead of living for the costs of others. Third, the overall welfare of society improves because people with changed values have more chances to integrate in the community. On the other hand, crime punishment does not always bring such positive results. For example, some people fail to modify their values, so they continue to commit crimes again. The society also has many stereotypes about criminals. For example, people without criminal background are often afraid of them and cannot trust. This makes the process of re-entering the society complicated. For instance, criminals may have problems with finding a job.


In conclusion, crime punishment is really important for any society. This helps to manage the amount of crimes in the society and prevent people from revenge as it was in ancient times. If authorities fail to provide crime punishment, people start to restore fairness on their own, which leads to new crimes. Therefore, the fair penalizing makes people feel protected and satisfied.

The focus of this research paper was major aspects of crime punishment such as retribution, rehabilitation and deterrence. Analyzing of these three elopements helps to understand the general notion of crime punishment and this role in the modern society.

Thus, crime punishment protects society from new crimes because penalties make people be afraid of negative outcomes caused by their improper behavior, so they decide not to commit anything wrong. However, this does not refer to all people because criminals usually can not make rational decisions. They often have lack of self-control and are not emotionally stable. Crime punishment is also useful for society because it restores fairness after a criminal act. For example, people that violated the laws cannot enjoy the same benefits as people that follow all the rules. Victims of the crime also get the feelings of satisfaction and justice. Finally, crime punishment is the way for an offender to get rehabilitation. For instance, the criminal has the opportunity to change his/her values and then re-enter the society and start new life without a crime. However, some offenders fail to change their lives after punishment and return to criminal past again. The society also has many negative stereotypes about criminals. Nevertheless, crime punishment performs so many functions in the society that it cannot be ignored.

Sep 23, 2019 in Informative
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