Why Should Offenders be Punished?

This is an essay that i did for my degree, it is about the different arguments as to why and how people should be punished. I got a 2:1 for it.

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  • Created on: 20-03-10 13:37
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Why should offenders be punished? Discuss the above question in relation to
justification of punishment.
The question of why offenders should be punished can be viewed from two main theories, reductivism
and retributivism. Within reductivism there is the idea of punishment working as a deterrent to stop
others from committing crimes. Rehabilitation is another aspect of reductivism which can help offenders
to deal with issues and become productive members of society, within rehabilitation there can be the
development of education and it can also help with substance abuse. The opinion that offenders should
be kept away from society also falls under reductivism. Retributivism feels that the offenders should be
punished because the committed a crime and there is a direct connected between crime and
Reductivism believes that the humans are controlled by the drive to gain pleasure and avoid pain so by
committing a crime the offender is receiving the pleasure but society is experiencing the pain. From this
explanation reductivists believe that punishments are moral if there is a utility for society. `This is the
general moral theory first systematically expounded by Jeremy Bentham (an important figure in penal
thought and history) which says that moral actions are those which produce `the greatest happiness
of the greatest number' of people. If punishment does indeed reduce the future incidence of crime,
then the pain and unhappiness caused to the offender may be outweighed by the avoidance of
unpleasantness to other people in the future ­ thus making punishment morally right from a utilitarian
point of view.' (Cavadino and Dignan 2002)
Punishment is often considered to deter others from committing crimes due to the consequences that
will come. `People are deterred from actions when they refrain from them because they dislike what
they believe to be possible consequences of those actions.' (Walker 1991 p13) Not all deterrents come
from within the penal system; social influences can sometimes play a part, such as the social stigma
around crime. Many people do not wish to be labelled a bad driver or a `shoplifter' so they refrain from
certain actions. `There are people, however, who do not care much about stigma. They have already
been stigmatised. In some cases what we regard as a stigma ­ for example a reputation of violence ­
has become a matter of pride.' (Walker 1991 p15) This kind of antisocial outlook can hopefully be
deterred by the offender receiving punishment because this will result in them realising the end result of
their criminal actions. Other people who share such negative, antisocial attitudes may also realise the
consequences, due to another persons imprisonment, and change their attitudes or someone who has
not yet delved into the criminal world will realise that they do not wish to in the future.

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Different deterrents have a much higher impact in preventing crime. A study looked at changes in
deterrents and found that `where parking fines are replaced by wheel-clamping ­ for example in certain
parts of London ­ illegal parking decreased.' (Kimber 1984) This kind of research helps to point out the
effective ways of deterring crime which is extremely necessary in reducing crime and punishing criminals.
Hence by punishing people in this way it helps to prevent future crimes.…read more

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The Times 2009) This reinforces the idea
that if offenders are punished they can then be rehabilitated to become functioning members of society.
The punishment of offenders can often expose the reasoning behind their criminal activity. It is well
known that drugs can cause people to turn to a life of crime in order to fuel their addiction. The
government is taking steps to help offenders to control their addictions which will, if effective, reduce
reoffending due to less reasoning for criminal activity.…read more

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The main aims of retributivism is to ensure that the public condemnation of offending is done. It also feels
that it is important to ensure that the offender recognises their blameworthiness. `Retributivism claims
that it is in some way morally right to return evil for evil, that two wrongs can somehow make a right.'
(Cavadino and Dignan 2002) Just Deserts is a main principle of retributivism and is derived from the
seriousness and the culpability of the offender.…read more

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Sentencing may have a
ritual function, but whatever the ritual celebrates it is not annulment.' (Walker 1991 p74) A less
metaphorical version of the idea is that `a law-breakers has taken an unfair advantage which can be
taken away from him by a penalty. He has usurped property, pleasure, or power in a way that is not
open to the law-abiding man'.…read more

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The Times. (2009). Putting the Sense into Sentencing. Available:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article6880063.ece. Last accessed
19 Oct 2009.
Von Hirsh, A. (1976). Doing Justice: The Choice of Punishments. Northeastern University Press.
Walker, N. (1991). Why punish? Theories of punishment reassessed. Oxford: Oxford University
Zaibert, L. (2006). Punishment and Retribution. Cornwall: MPG Books Ltd.…read more


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