Purposes of Criminal Laws

In the Criminal Justice system there several purposes of laws. The purposes of criminal law are to protect and to serve and to limit human actions and to guide human conduct. It also provides punishment and penalties to those who commits crimes against property or a person. Retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation and protection of society are all purposes of the criminal law system and have been argued about in courthouses and capitols for centuries. According to Schmalleger, deterrence is “a goal of criminal sentencing that seeks to inhibit criminal behavior through the fear of punishment” (Schmalleger, F., 2009, pg. 374).

Deterrence is one of the foundations of criminal law. The principle is that if we set and publicized punishment for crimes, then anyone who think of committing a crime would be less likely to do so out of fear that they would get caught and punished. People who break the law are punished. Criminal penalties range from a small fine or community service to the death penalty. Why are criminals punished? Most people accept that there are no consequences for criminal conduct. The consequences are generally unpleasant and extract from the law breaker either his liberty or his property.

Once someone is found guilty of a crime, either a felony or a misdemeanor, punishment is imposed. In general, punishment has four main purposes in the US criminal justice system. One purpose for punishment is to act as a deterrent. By instituting punishments, the state hopes to discourage people away from crime. However, the people must know when something is a crime in order to avoid it. Another type of punishment is by restraint/incarceration. By keeping the individual under state control, then the state can prevent the individual from committing another crime.

However, many times incarceration is only a short-term solution. Rehabilitation is an option when it is possible. The individual who violates criminal laws receives punishment but also learns how to change bad behavior and work toward becoming a better citizen. The last purpose of punishment is retribution, or to make the individual suffer for the pain caused to the victim and the victim’s family.

Often times, this purpose is most relevant to the victim or the victim’s family when a violent crime is committed. In conclusion, in the U.S. there are many reasons why we have criminal laws. I think that if lawmakers make the punishments tougher and hold a person longer in custody, the less opportunity that person has to commit new crimes. I think that no matter how hard law-makers try to push to make laws tougher, there is always going to be someone who defects the systems. References: Schmalleger, F. (2009). Criminal Justice Today. An Introductory Text For The 21st century (11 Ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Pr entice Hall. ISBN: 9780558395995.