Breaking the law

Society differs on prioritizing the most important goal for criminal sanctioning. Some believe retribution, or the punishment for an illegal act, is the only sensible way to deal with criminal behavior. Dating back to the sentiments of “an eye for an eye”, retribution involves the determination of punishment based on the seriousness of the crime. Fortunately, most societies have abandoned torture and mutilation, but some argue that prisons are equally inhumane. Deterrence is an additional goal of criminal sanctioning targeting both offenders and those at risk of breaking the law.

Ideally, the punishments assigned for particular crimes should decrease the likelihood that people will commit these acts again or at all. In contrast, incapacitation serves no preventative purpose and focuses on the removal of a criminal’s ability to harm again. Incapacitation invokes a number of serious challenges to the already overworked system because it often requires extremely close supervision of criminals even after their release from prison. Given the growing burden on the system and the increasing intensity of violent crimes, rehabilitation should be the primary aim for criminal sanctioning.

The consequences of incarcerating exceptionally large numbers of people take a toll on the finances of our nations, families, and the safety of our streets. Transitioning the criminal into a more productive role will benefit all members of society. Restorative justice programs, which seek reparations for victims, may contribute to rehabilitative process. These programs also address the singular focus of rehabilitation on the offender. Victims, criminals, prevention possibilities, and the greater interests of society should all be involved with the determination of the most effective criminal sanctioning programs.