The History of Punishment and the Penal System

Punishment is an enormous part of the correction system. There is a long history of rationales for punishment that is influenced by a broad number of philosophical, political, and social themes from many different eras as well as perspectives on the nature of humans. There have been periods of simple retributive justice to more complex and dark periods that seemed to highlight man's inhumanity to man more than any benefits of punishment.

Changes and reforms however brought by enlightenment and positive action to fully realize the reformatory and deterrent qualities of punishment while maintaining humanity however still remain possible even in such imperfect systems. History of Punishment and Penology Derived from the Latin word "punire" which meant "to inflict penalties for some offence," the word "punishment" ("Punishment,"2004) automatically brings with it implications of pain as a consequence of wrongdoing.

People believe that punishment or inflicting pain and suffering is the best way to effect change in an undesirable act or person. The act of "punishing" is usually decided and carried out by an authority figure mandated to protect the majority of society. In society, punishment goes hand in hand with "corrections. "  By the very word itself, corrections imply that that there is something wrong that must be fixed. Nowadays, "corrections" is synonymous with prison or "correctional facilities. " Methods of Punishment Punishment is carried out for many reasons and in various ways.

In more primitive societies, offenders are punished by public flogging, detention and humiliation at the stocks, public hanging and in some cases, burning at the stake. Medieval times in England saw a more sophisticated yet brutal way of punishment through torture with the use of mechanical devices such as racks and thumbscrews. It was also then that prisoners for major offences were "hanged, drawn and quartered. " In today's more "enlightened" times, minor and non-criminal offences, punishment is done by applying fines, confiscation of property, expulsion from a society, restriction of civic rights, and enforced community service.

Corporal punishment usually involves the application of physical pain with the purpose of changing an undesired behavior. The most basic example of this would be the spanking dong by parents to erring children. While some countries today ban corporal punishment, there are still some that use this as a method of corrections and punishment. These methods vary from culture to culture. For instance, some Asian societies use whipping or caning as punishment for various offences. Some countries in the Middle East still do branding or amputation of limbs used in the offence.

Other ways by which punishment is done include imprisonment for long periods of time, banishment and the much debated capital punishment or death. History of Punishment In the olden days, punishment was left up to the affected party or family. Any offended party could extract justice in any way they see fit. Any wrongs in primitive society was treated as private matters to be avenged through direct retaliation by the offended party, or should the direct victim died, vengeance was carried out by his family (Bauman, 1996, p.2)

Justice was synonymous to vengeance. In early family tribal systems, people sought a measure of control and fairness and started turning to religious authorities to maintain order. This understandably began to get chaotic as the tribal societies expanded and the family system of control weakened over time. People clamored for a more formal and organized method of establishing boundaries, order and accountability within the society.