Punishment as a deterrent to crime

Approaches in Dealing with Criminals (Deterrent to crime)

Man has never been able to develop a completely rational and satisfactory set of alternative for dealing with convicted violators of criminal laws. The more primitive form of criminal sanctions was based primarily on ideas of revenge and retribution.

Execution, physical torture and public degradation were common methods in use until near close of 18th Century. Imprisonment as principle method came to use only in the beginning of 19th Century. Concepts of retributive punishment have persisted but superimposed upon them were other purposes such as deterrence, public protection and most important of all rehabilitation.

Implementation of these ideas has been extremely slow and is hampered by lack of financial support and excessive fragmentation of the public agencies responsible. The movement is now away from the excessive use of imprisonment to rehabilitate measures such as community based programmes, making use of the social science.

Punishment as a deterrent to crime
Punishment as a deterrent to crime

At present there are three aspects of treatment of criminal offenders –

  1. Traditional Reliance on Punishment
  2. Rehabilitation
  3. Correctional Trends and Prospects

Traditional Reliance on Punishment –

Jeremy Bentham (1843) conducted that if punishment were certain, swift and severe many a person would avoid criminal behavior.

Such punishments has been thought to serve three purposes –
  1. Revenge by society “Giving criminal his due”.
  2. Protection of society.
  3. Deterrence from future crimes – both for offenders who are punished and others through example.

Revenge –

This approach is based on the premise that the guilty who has brought distress to others ought to suffer himself.

Protection of Society –

The protection of society by the imprisonment of the offender is assured while he is serving his term but not thereafter. Without rehabilitation, imprisonment may simple serve to expose the offender to prison codes of behavior, to reinforce his criminal values, to permit his learning of new criminal skills or refining old ones and to augment his degradation and feeling of separateness from society.

Click to read: युवाओं में बढ़ता अपराध

Deterrence –

Effects of deterrence are based on the premise that punishment for criminal acts will deter both offenders in the future and keep others from committing similar acts. The failure of our present system to do this is shown by the rapidly rising crime rates and recidivism. Also Read: How to cure Drug Addiction?

Several factors limit the deterrent effect of punishment among them the lack of guilt feelings among those punished and the uncertainty and delay that often around the punishment. Many imprisoned offenders see their problem of getting caught as bad luck than bad character. In addition the long delay that commonly separates sentencing from the offense lessens the impact of punishment as deterrent force.

Logically it might seem that the more severe the punishment the greater its deterrent effects, but it to for certain that at least in homicide and rape – this has not been the case. This has been shown by the studies of Schwartz & Melville 1973 and many other psychologists.

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