Rationales for Punishment Essay - Essay Prowess

Rationales for Punishment Essay


Rationales for Punishment


Punishment refers to an action issued by an authority that imposes a difficulty to either a person or group of people in response to the crime that they have committed. This measure is subjected deliberately to the party that has led to the presence of a consequence, which is undesirable to the society (Miethe, and Lu, 2005).  The primary objective of issuing this deliberate action is to help minimize the chances of that person or group repeating the unwanted outcome (Griset, 1991). It involves subjecting the person responsible for the offense with an unpleasant or painful action because of wrongdoing or breaking the laid down regulations.

Application of Rationale for Punishment

Several rationales for punishment are usually used in correcting or lowering the probability of an offense being committed by an individual or a group of persons. The first rationale is retribution. This reasoning seeks to inflict unpleasant consequences to a person or group responsible for an offense because they deserve to be done so (Miethe, and Lu, 2005). The behavior of criminals disturbs the peaceful co-existence and equilibrium of the society, and punishment plays a crucial role in bringing back the balance.

Retribution tends to concentrate on the criminal law itself as the primary objective why the adverse action is being imposed.  Those who do wrong and inflict suffering to others ought to be subjected to the same because they have resulted to other people experiencing adverse outcome and pain. According to one Griset, (1991), retribution philosophy firmly grips that the intensity of an authoritative. Deliberate action inflicted to a particular person or a group of people should solemnly be related to how worse the offense is (Pollock, 2012). The theory also argues that the act of a country punishing those who commit various offenses helps to bring satisfaction to the society’s natural requirement for fairness. Therefore, it aids in preventing those affected by the crime verdict with their close allies from demanding vengeance using immediate disruptions (Miethe, and Lu, 2005). Currently, retributive rationale is widely used today because it enables helps to prevent future offenses.

Its implication for the social contract is that when the subject of an offense must face the unpleasant outcome in response to misconduct, it is because he or she fully deserves it. Victims are not permitted to take matters into their hands and act; instead, they ought to leave them to the system of justice to handle them (Krohn, 2009). This is as per the criminal justice system. The society respects the will of those who breach the laws through subjecting them to unpleasant responses.

The second rationale is utilitarianism. The objective of utilitarianism is to inflict undesirable consequences to those who commit crimes with an aim of discouraging or preventing the commitment of offenses in the days to come (Miethe, and Lu, 2005). This philosophy stipulates that laid down regulations that identify the kind or nature of a response to an offense should be formulated in such a way that it prevents criminal acts in the future (Durham, 1994).

In this case, rules and guidelines that govern the society should purpose to increase the level of society’s joy. It explicitly notes that a society that is free from criminal acts is not in existence. Therefore, it strives to subject the lawbreakers sufficiently to avert criminal acts in the future (Griset, 1991). It identifies that the imposition of undesirable action to the offender has outcomes both to the one committing the crime and the community. It also stipulates that the sum of all sound generated by the authoritative response to an offense should supersede the amount of evil (Krohn, 2009).

Punishment serves as notice to the whole community, and it cautions others that any sought of a criminal nature will be dealt with appropriately. It, therefore, prevents people from committing any crime. The prevention can be either general or individual (Pollock, 2012). General prevention aims at discouraging other people from copying those who commit offenses. Individual prevention has a goal of ensuring that the offender does not repeat the criminal acts he or she committed before (Miethe, and Lu, 2005).

Incapacitation involves all measures implemented to render an individual unable to commit any criminal act or to take out the offender from the community. It makes it hard or very very impossible for him or her to continue committing crimes against the members of the society while in the sentence (Griset, 1991). It is applied majorly to offenders who regularly commit crimes since they are subjected to longer sentences by criminal justice systems than ordinary penalties for a particular misconduct.

Incapacitation takes greater costs since the breaker of the law operates in prison and brings disruption to his or her relatives during the period he or she is locked up in the prison. Additionally, incapacitation is utilized in cases, which involve offenders who presumed to be dangerous (for example those who are guilty of murder). These offenders are most likely to commit violent acts of crime if not restrained (Pollock, 2012). By restricting them, they are prevented from committing further criminal activities since their physical ability have been controlled, hence preventing further offenses by the convicted.


Rationales of punishment are divided broadly into three main areas, which include retribution, utilitarianism and incapacitation. Utilitarianism attempts to punish wrongdoers to disappoint offenses in the future. Under this rationale, rules are designed to maximize the society’s happiness. In addition, since punishment and crime are incompatible with happiness, they should be maintained at minimum level (Durham, 1994). Utilitarian acknowledges that a society without crime does not exist. However, they are committed to inflicting enough punishment to prevent crimes in the future. Moreover, punishment has both positive and negative effects to the society and the offender. In this respect, utilitarian argue that the punishment produces more benefits in the society as compared to the total evil. The retribution rationale seeks to correct offenders since they deserve to receive punishment. The retributive rationale opposes the utilitarian because it focuses on backward at the transgression while utilitarian is based on punishment for social benefits. Retributivists argue that human beings can make free will and sound decisions (Krohn, 2009). A wrongdoer who is mentally challenged or incompetent should not receive punishment. Incapacitation tries to separate the offender from the society through imprisonment. Its foundations are that offenders can commit further crimes. Therefore, imprisonment reduces or eliminates the ability of the wrongdoer to commit some crimes. The death sentence removes this permanently in an irrevocable manner. Other forms of incapacitation include hands amputation of those people who have been caught up committing a crime. The perspective is sufficient to reduce the ability of an individual to repeat an offense is the best alternative.


Durham, A. (1994). Crisis and reform. Boston: Little, Brown and Co.

Griset, P. (1991). Determinate sentencing. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Krohn, M. (2009). Handbook on Crime and Deviance. Dordrecht: Springer.

Miethe, T., & Lu, H. (2005). Punishment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pollock, J. (2012). Ethical dilemmas and decisions in criminal justice. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.