To begin with, it is necessary to say that punishment is an integral part of modern countries’ legal systems, because countries have a duty to protect society from wrongdoers and authorities could reach success in it by punishing offenders. Oxford English Dictionary defines punishment as the infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offence. There are four main purposes of punishment – incapacitation, deterrence, retribution and rehabilitation – and the aim of this paper is to describe and analyze them and also to determine which purpose might be regarded as the most important.
The first aim of the punishment that needs to be described is incapacitation. Incapacitation means that an offender deprives the ability to commit further crimes. It might be achieved by diverse methods. For instance, incapacitation by cutting off thieves’ hands, as it took place in ancient times, or by imprisoning offenders in order to separate them from the community. There are two types of incapacitation: selective and collective. Selective incapacitation is a social policy the aim of which is to isolate individuals deemed to be the most dangerous for the society.
Moreover, Polinsky and Shavell state that reducing the punishment duration for those who committed crime first time can be considered as a policy of selective incapacitation. In contrast, collective incapacitation is imposing the same sentences on those who committed specific crimes. Visher states that it involves standardized guidelines for the sentencing of any offender for a specific offense. It also needs to be added that there are advantages and disadvantages of incapacitation. The ain advantage of incapacitating offenders is that criminals cannot re-offend being in jail.
However, the crimes can be re-offended on release and that is the main drawback of incapacitation. Deterrence is a further purpose that needs to be highlighted. The aim of punishment is also to warn people from crime committing under the fear of being punished and it might be reached through the well-developed criminal justice system, one of the main aim of which is to ensure that every wrongdoer will be punished for the criminal acts.
There are two kinds of deterrence. They are general and specific deterrence. Ferris defines specific deterrence as deterrence which attempts to persuade the individual before the court not to commit further offences, while general deterrence is defined as the process of persuading others who might be inclined to offend not to do so. Deterrence has its own pros and cons as well. One of the main deterrence benefits is that it may reduce crime rate significantly and sharply.
For instance, there is a three strikes policy in most states of USA, which means that if an individual has already been in jail two times and if this person commits a third crime, she would be automatically sentenced for 25 years regardless of crime seriousness. On the other hand, the main drawback is that criminals usually think that they will not be caught, so they continue committing crimes. Retribution, as the next aim of punishment, is associated with the idea that the wrongdoers have to be penalized and punished for violation against the civilians.
Retribution could be viewed from two aspects: revenge and restoration. According to Oxford English Dictionary, revenge is the action of hurting or harming someone in return for an injury or wrong. ‘Eye for eye’ principle and capital punishment are the ultimate examples of this. Restoration, as the second aspect, is characterized as damage compensation that follows the offence. For example, street vandals could be punished by cleaning things which were vandalized. There are also two kinds of retribution: assaultive and positive retribution.
The definition of assaultive retribution can be kept to that it is acceptable to detest criminal for wrongdoings and the positive retribution means that innocent men should not be punished, while guilty ones always have to be penalized. Retribution as well as the other purposes has its own advantages and disadvantages. The first advantage of retribution is that it prevents people from criminal actions, in other words, if a person commits a crime, then appropriate measures can be adopted.
A further benefit is that restorative retribution can bring offenders back to the community by making them more discipline and responsible. Speaking about the disadvantages, it must be said that most crimes are unintended, while the retribution is deliberate. The next and the last purpose of punishment, which is also considered to be the most important, is rehabilitation. The aim of punishment is not only to penalize offenders, but also to restore and return wrongdoers back to normal society.
The outlaws can be rehabilitated in different ways. For example, through education or mental health care in cases when the criminals in psychiatric disorder. There are several advantages and disadvantages of rehabilitation. The first and the most important benefit of rehabilitation is that through rehabilitation offenders could grasp why they commit particular crimes. Therefore, outlaws could make a decision to change and successfully return to the normal life and human society.
However, criminals may not make such a decision, return to the gangs and continue committing crimes. In other words, delinquent must be willing to change and to become law-abiding citizen as well. Thus, the main disadvantage of rehabilitation is that it is very hard to predict people’s behavior after it. To sum up, the punishment is an essential part of countries’ legal systems and it has different purposes.
There are four main of them: incapacitation, when an offender is isolated from human society, deterrence, when potential offenders are warn not to commit crimes under the fear of consequences, retribution, the meaning of which is that offenders have to be penalized for wrongdoings, and rehabilitation, the main point of which is that an offender can be restored and returned back to human society. The last of aforementioned purposes might be considered as the most important one, because it is more humane to try to rehabilitate criminals, to return wrongdoers to the normal human community, than simply hold them in jails.