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The only punishment that can achieve justice is retribution DISCUSS

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Introduction

'The only punishment that can achieve justice is retribution' DISCUSS (30 marks) 'The concept of punishment - its definition - and its practical application and justification during the past half-century have shown a marked drift away from efforts to reform and rehabilitate offenders in favour of retribution and incarceration'1 Retribution is the idea of 'just-deserts' and sees that the offender pays for what they have done, showing them the consequences of their action by a suitable punishment according to the crime. James Rachels believes this idea of a criminal being 'paid back' fits with people's natural feelings. This form of punishment asserts individual responsibility in the performance of free acts and helps to vindicate the victim/s and their families. I think that whether this form of punishment is just or not depends upon the punishment which is utilized and on how 'immoral' the crime is. The idea of morality and crime has been around for as long as we are aware of, however different cultures have varying views on what is right and what is wrong (cultural relativism) ...read more.

Middle

A positive legalist would say that whatever the penal code assigns to their offence, this should be the punishment they receive. Whilst others would argue that offenders should be punished according to the moral culpability of the crime. This makes it difficult to serve punishments as for every crime the situation should be taken into account as well as the effect on the victim, so a deontological system would fail as it is too restraining. An example of this is if the penal code stated that the crime of stealing should be punishable by incarceration, somebody who was stealing food for their starving family should surely be less punished that somebody who stole in order to improve their personal wealth. A problem with retribution is that it tends to slip away from justice and towards vengeance, serving the criminal with perhaps more than necessary to stop them from reoffending, making it counter-productive. It also doesn't sit well with many Christian ideas, for example Christ's focus on forgiveness and reconciliation. Another problem is that the wrong person may be accused and therefore punished falsely. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is based on rationality. By showing the consequences of actions, people will know exactly what to expect if they go against the rules. Bernard Hoose writes that Utilitarians justify the pain inflicted upon the criminal by the greater happiness of a society with less crime. This raises the practical question of whether punishments actually work. I believe that this form of punishment may work for minor crimes such as speeding, almost like a reminder to society of how they should behave, however for major crimes I believe that everyone innately knows that they are wrong, and know the consequences, but they still happen. Overall, I believe the best approach to be reformation as it gets into the mind of a criminal and attempts to identify the problems; even though it is flawed I believe it to be more humane and forgiving than retribution. Perhaps, for those people who reformation fails on, incarceration is the answer, however I think that it is never too late to change a humans mind. 1 'punishment' http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/punishment/ First published Fri Jun 13, 2003; substantive revision Fri Feb 19, 2010 2 Commandment number Four 3 Commandment number Six ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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