Punishment Philosophy Paper

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Title: Punishment Philosophy Paper Submitted by: Travis Hance Course: CJS220 Instructor: Stephen Gillespie

Punishment Philosophy Paper Punishment philosophy is a combination of research and theory that has been accumulated over the years and is an attempt to determine the proper punishments for crimes committed against society. There are generally considered to be four accepted areas of theory on punishment philosophy deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, and retribution. “The purpose of punishment is to prevent crime by convincing or scaring individuals not to commit crimes because they or others have been punished for

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violating a law. When people decide not to park in a handicapped space because they have been fined or do not want to be fined, they have been deterred” (Myer and Grant, 2003). The punishment phase of a trial than follows after sentencing has occurred. The sentencing phase allows agents of the court to determine a punishment that is appropriate to the crime. Rehabilitation philosophy shows a basic belief that criminals may reenter productive society after paying a debt through the completion of their sentence. “Rehabilitation is an effort to end criminal behavior by “curing” offenders of their criminality.” (Myer and Grant, 2003). Programs including psychotherapy and education are often included in the sentencing phase in order to cure or change an offenders thinking and behavioral patterns. Incapacitation theory is well suited in some cases to more serious crimes by removing violent offenders from society, most often by imprisonment. “Incapacitation involves attempts to physically restrain offenders from victimizing others. For the most part, incapacitation is the belief that we can prevent crimes by isolating offenders from the rest of society, thus preventing them from

Punishment Philosophy Paper committing further crimes against the populace” (Blumstein, Cohen, and Nagin, 1978). While incapacitation or imprisonment is generally effective by societal isolation, it is an expensive societal burden. The concept of retribution is based not only in common law, but also in

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many biblical and other religious texts. Retribution demands a punishment that is the exact opposite of the crimes nature. “Retribution is one of the most misunderstood punishment theories. Some people mistakenly believe that retribution, also referred to as just deserts, justifies any penalty, no matter how harsh” (Meyer and Grant, 2003). As society has grown, the concepts of retribution have changed from individual vengeance to a different role, where vengeance is exacted by society through representatives such as judges, jury, and the criminal justice system. Sanctions are related to punishment philosophy and influence the criminal justice system in a very real way. Sanction is a term that describes forms of punishment. As such, a sanction must be outlined by codes and law in order for a judge or sentencing agent to be able to impose it. While in past history, sanctions could be severe and included corporal punishments, in modern times, sanctions have come to include programs of varying nature designed to rehabilitate and return offenders to society. Regardless of the nature of the crime, a sanction then relies upon the codes in the criminal justice system to define an action as a crime, a punishment that fits the crime, and potentially funding for programs. “No matter what the sentencing agent’s preference or what the stated punishment philosophy is, the endorsed sanction must be available before it can

Punishment Philosophy Paper be imposed on any offender. A judge, for example, may feel a certain offender

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requires intensive therapeutic intervention, but if there are no programs available or no funds to pay for such programs, the judge will have to choose another sentence.” (Meyer and Grant, 2003). As society continues to explore the history of crimes committed, study them, and create additional theories there is no doubt in my mind that we will see improvement in both the apprehension and treatment of criminals. With the national prison population continuing to grow, and the facilities become more and more cramped, I believe that there will continue to be a need for refinement of the criminal justice system as a whole, and that punishment philosophies are a vital part of this process.

Punishment Philosophy Paper References

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A. Meyer, J. F., & Grant, D. R. (2003). The courts in our criminal justice system. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, page 385.

B. Meyer, J. F., & Grant, D. R. (2003). The courts in our criminal justice system. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, page 391.

C. Blumstein, Cohen, and Nagin, 1978, p. 64.

D. Meyer, J. F., & Grant, D. R. (2003). The courts in our criminal justice system. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, page 395.

E. Meyer, J. F., & Grant, D. R. (2003). The courts in our criminal justice system. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, page 399-400.