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Assess the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Different Aims of Punishment

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Assess the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Different Aims of Punishment The definition of crime is "breaking the laws set by the State" and the general agreement of people is that if someone commits a crime they should be punished in some way. Punishment practices are ancient; we accept them without question. However, punishment requires justification, as it is an infliction of pain upon an individual. What is the justification of punishment? What are its aims? Before the aims of punishment can be discussed why people commit crimes should be examined to further understand how we should punish. Some people believe that all human actions are caused by factors outside human control, these people are "hard determinists". John Locke, a philosopher, believed moral choice was an illusion. He gave the example of a man sleeping in a locked room, man wakes and decides to stay in the room, he thinks he has a free choice to do so but he does not know it is locked. His ignorance makes him believe he has a choice. This relates to punishment and punishment must presuppose moral blame. No person can be held morally blameworthy if they have no freedom of choice. This suggests punishment is irrelevant as no one can be held responsible for his or her actions. ...read more.


It can be seen, as "utilitarian" in its outlook as it aims to have an improving effect on people, which in turn will benefit Society. In the Bible God punishes to reform the wicked "happy indeed is the man who God corrects". In the 19th Century Christians used solitary confinement to achieve rehabilitation. Criminals had time to think about their evil deeds and repent. Prisoners were shut away from each other and cared for by chaplains. The Reformation and Rehabilitation theory disagreed with other ideas of the aims of punishment as they see prisons as a place where criminals enhance their criminal skills. How can you teach someone to be free when they are behind bars? The Reform and Rehabilitation theory believes in alternatives to traditional punishment, for example, probation, parole and community service, the latter even benefits society. An advocate of this theory was Crook. He saw punishment and crime as the responsibility of society. He suggested that everyone is responsible for the actions, but they are influenced by society. He believed it was possible to predict person's actions so therefore society should share in the responsibility for the offender's crime. He saw our legal system as wrong as individuals pay the price at the hands of our system. He believed society must pay the price of correcting these dangerous and destructive situations. ...read more.


For example 57% of men and 40% of women discharged from prison in 1987 re offended in two years. The figures for probation and community service were 56% men, 37% women, 55% men, and 41% women re offended. The re-offending rate of prisoners is more than those in community service but not on a large enough scale to make a difference. This theory is supposed to be about reform but the way criminals are "cured" by mind altering drugs, surgery or brain washing is not reform. It is just creating a brand new person. The criminal loses the right to be him or herself in that case. C.S Lewis also stated his humanitarian theory, that in rehabilitation and reform the criminal becomes the case and not a person subject to rights. I believe that the most feasible of the aims of punishment is that put forward by Moberly and Hospers. Their views of compromise seem to be a very logical aim of punishment. Their ideas do not "over punish" criminals nor do they leave the victims feeling as if justice has not been served. Moberly also suggests that in some cases punishment may not be necessary. Retributivists however, may advocate punishment is a duty in all circumstances, but surely if in a particular case punishment would probably make matters worse and an alternative action, for example kindness, would improve matters, the morally right course of action would be the latter. ...read more.

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