Criminal Punishment

The rationale behind punishments is that the punishments would deter people from indulging in crime. When there are no punishments for crime, everyone would indulge in crime and be benefited by causing grievance to others. Punishments appropriate for the crime committed would make people think before engaging in acts of crime. The threat of a punishment and its implementation would make people assess if the risks are worth the gains. When punishments are severe, people are more likely to refrain from committing the crime.

Also the threat of punishment should be fully implemented and effectively carried out so that future crimes are lesser (Law. jrank, 2008). When the actual punishment is rarely or never followed, the significance of the threat is lost. It is the duty and the right of the society to punish someone who has violated the rights of others. The morality is considered to be restored when the person committing the wrongful act is punished. Although the punishments would not make up for the loss or trauma suffered by the innocent victim, a jail term would offset the advantage of the offender.

The early views on criminology covering crime causes, reforms and punishments were advocated by the three main schools of thought; namely, the Classical School, the Positivist School and the Chicago School. The Classical School which was prevalent between the late 1700s and the early1800s suggested that people took to crime out of their free will, and that punishments should be in place to deter them from indulging in crime. The view of the Classical School was that the pain of punishment should be greater than the pleasure derived from the crime.

Although the society has realized that only punishments could deter criminals, the situation has come when the need and morality of harsh punishments need to be debated. When prisoners are put up in high security units, they have no opportunities for interacting with others. There are several super maximum security buildings were people are made to live in total isolation for a long time. These prisons provide an unsafe environment for the prisoners, staff and also to the public upon their release (Human Rights Watch, 1999).

Confinement to maximum security imprisonment is not related to the crime committed outside the jail, but for actions inside jail like assault, escape attempts etc. These prisoners are under extreme levels of surveillance and control, with scarce recreational and educational chances. Such treatment of prisoners breaches the basic human rights and dignity of the people. When people are held in such conditions for very long, they are very likely to suffer psychologically, from which they may never recover even if their sentences are completed.

Prison officials have three strategies to have control over their prisoners namely the use of coercion, their legal authority and their personal authority (HM Prison Service, 2004). Although there are guidelines on how prisoners are ought to be treated under the law, in practice officials see these in conflict with how they should be practically treated, to uphold the penal order. There are cases where actions by officials not only breach the law but also the spirit of the law.

These are then also defended by the officials as being necessary to preserve order and discipline. When such developments become the norm, the prison becomes devoid of law, and prisoner’s life is dependent on their relationship with the officers. Officials make negotiations based on factors unrelated to law, which may or may not be very discriminating, but however not open to public scrutiny or legal accountability. Prison officials no doubt work under harsh and risky circumstances and are accountable to both the society and prisoners.

This however doesn’t justify their unilateral actions, particularly when it is against the interests of the prisoner or society. When prison officials fail to take decisions on legal or ethical grounds, the prison becomes a place of manipulated or negotiated law, where prisoners are ironically brought for breaking law. REFERENCES Law. jrank (2008) Punishment – Moral justifications and legal punishment [Electronic Version] Retrieved Online on 9th November 2008 from http://law. jrank. org/pages/1905/Punishment-Moral-justifications-legal-punishment.

html HM Prison Service (2004) The caretakers of punishment: Prison officer personal authority and the rule of law. Prison Service Journal. [Electronic Version]Retrieved Online on 9th November 2008 from http://www. hmprisonservice. gov. uk/resourcecentre/prisonservicejournal/index. asp? id=5978,3124,11,3148,0,0 Human Rights Watch (1999) Red onion state prison: background. Human rights violations in the United States. [Electronic Version]Retrieved Online on 9th November 2008 from http://www. hrw. org/reports/1999/redonion/Rospfin-02. htm