Judaism -crime and punishment



Justice is the due allocation of reward and punishment, the maintenance of right.

Laws are rules made by parliament and enforceable by the courts. 

Non-religious views 

Believe justice is is important becase it makes sure:

  • people rewarded for their labour and the justice system makes sure the laws are obeyed and followed
  • without laws and justice civiliastion couldn't function. The weak are protected from the stong ie babies protected from adults. 


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Justice importance

Important for Jews

  • God is just and created the world as a place for justice to occur – given laws i.e. to Moses therefore must be practised
  •  Believe justice is so important that they joined the civil rights movement, to fight for justice and equal right
  •  Most believe earths resources should be shared as god’s justice applies to the whole world. 

Vicitms believe it is important justice is done so they feel society understands there suffering and it paid by the perpertrator. 

Jewish view

They believe justice is important for the victim because:

  • Important as victims is innocent and justice can only be given when victim receives justice from the perpetrator.
  • Torah teaches that justice should be equal to the suffering they have caused to the victim. SOWA: “an eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth” Exodus 21:25
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Crime is an act against the law. There are violent crimes and cybercrimes.

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Causes of crime

  • Poverty= leads to crime. Might steal for food. 45 food parcel recipients said they have stolen food.
  • Upbringing = leads to likelihood of committing crime. 24% brought up in foster care commit a crime.
  • Drugs = stealing of money to buy drugs, alcohol etc. Murders committed majority were drunk.
  • Low-self esteem = reason to commit crime. Many prisoners have low self-esteem issues.
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Jewish attitudes to crime

Jews are against crime because its breaks the laws of God. They try to alleviate the causes of crime. SOWA “the curse if you disobey the commands of the lord your God” Deuteronomy 11:26


·         Remove poverty by giving 1/10th of there income.

·         Helping parents to bring up their children to obey the law by attending the synagogue etc.

·         Encouraging a moderate use of alcohol and banning the use of drugs (banned in the Tenak)

·         Improve self- esteem as they are perfect because created in the image of god.

·         Try and stop reoffending criminals through rabbis visiting prisons and on release they will attend Jewish care

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Good, evil and suffering

 Basis of good actions is the mitzvot. There are 613 commandments some are positive, and some are negative i.e. To honour parent’s vs do not steal.

Torah says that good actions will be rewarded by God.

Evil actions are ones that go against the mitzvot – breaking commandments.

Evil is divided into:

Moral Evil = evil caused by humans who misuse their free will. They chose to do something evil. i.e. ****, murder etc.

Natural evil = suffering that has not been caused by humans i.e. Earthquakes, floods etc.

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Non-religious attitudes to evil + suffering

Atheists and humanists reject god’s existence because natural evil causes so much evil. Floods cause death to innocent people. Cancer causes people to die in the most awful way. Innocent children die of fatal diseases. Therefore, God doesn’t exist, and the world evolved through the result of the Big-Bang.

God is meant to be omnipotent, omnibenevolent. God can’t be if allows suffering there shouldn’t be any as has power to remove it.

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Jewish answer to why people suffer

Jews have many different responses:

Tenak teaches that God is so powerful and great that humans can never understand gods’ reasons for doing things. God is allowing evil for a reason we would never know. SOWA Book of Job in the old testament.

Tanakh also says that suffering is intended to be part of life. Suffering and joy go side by side. They are Gods plans and Jews should just allow for gods plan to unfold. SOWA the book of psalms has suffering and evil side by side. Psalm 88 full of grief but the following psalm 89 is full of joy “I will sing of the Lords great love forever”

Some claim suffering isn’t bad and in some ways is beneficial. I.e. The holocaust was full of so much suffering, but this was beneficial as brought the world back to God.

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Attitudes to Punishment

Punishment is a penalty inflicted on an offender fore breaking the law. The UK have these forms of punishment:  

Imprisonment: sent to prison

Suspended sentence: sent to prison after a period of time unless commit a crime in that time.

Community service order: not sent to prison but does unpaid work in the community.

Fines: charges for breaking some laws.

Probation: when you get a ‘suspended prison sentence’ and do not go to prison but see a probation officer and stay out of trouble. A second chance. If you mess up, you go straight to jail!

Compensation order:  offender ahs to pay the victim compensation for damage of belongings etc.

Restitution order: offender forced to give back anything they took

Hospital order: offender with mental health issues can be detained in a secure hospital

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Jewish teachings about punishment

Jews believe society has a right to punish those who break the law.

The Torah also allows:

  •  Retribution -punishment for sin

SOWA “if anyone injures his neighbours whatever he has done must be done to him” Leviticus

  • Imprisonment – sent to prison
  • Capital punishment – death penalty

SOWA “if anyone kills a person, the murderers shall be put to death on the evidence of the witness” numbers

 However, these punishments aren’t apart of the mitzvot, so they look at the principles behind these laws. Therefore, punishment must be proportionate to crime. They also believe that compensation is better than retribution, the value of something.

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Why punishment is regarded as justice

Some people regard punishment as a form of justice.

Retributive justice is justice done by making the criminal pay for their crime therefore it is proportionate to the crime.

Punishment for justice isn’t personal and crime doesn’t have to be the same i.e. An eye for an eye. The punishment just must be proportional to the crime i.e. A shoplifter wouldn’t get the death penalty.  Criminal atones for their crime.

Punishment is also justice as good are rewarded and criminals punished.

Punishment is needed in soceity to make sure that the laws are obeyed. It also protects the soceity who are law abiding. 

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Aims of punishment

Protection: where the punishment protects us from the criminal. Prison is an example of this.

Retribution: where the punishment allows the victims to ‘get their own back’. An example is the death penalty – this could be seen as ‘an eye for an eye’.

Deterrence: where the punishment puts others off committing the crime. In some Islamic countries, shari’ah law is followed strictly. A thief may have his (or her) hand cut off. This is done in public so everyone can see!

Reparation: where the punishment gets the criminal to fix or pay back what they have done. Community service for vandalism is an example.

Reformation: where the punishment reforms the criminal. It should make them into a better person.


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Jewish attitudes to aims of punishment

Jews believe that punishments protect society and a sufficient deterrent will reduce crime. They also believe that reformation is very important in the punishment process.

They believe this because:

Torah says criminals should be punished

The Torah says that deterrence, protection and retribution as the reasons for punishment.

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Forgiveness is the deliberate decision to release the feelings of vengeance they had towards the person. Its not forgetting.  

Jewish teachings

Judaism teaches that you should try and forgive those who have wronged them because:

God forgives those who pray for repent. True repentance is to seek forgiveness for sins and to forgive others fore theirs.

Tanakh teaches those to forgive and Jews should always follow the Tanakh.

Jewish people should forgive others before when on deathbed, so they god can forgive there’s.

SOWA “but with you there is forgiveness so that we can with reverence serve you”

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Forgiven by Community

The prison system costs the taxpayers £11 billion each year. 60% reoffend within a year of being released due to be distanced from family and have no job. Society needs to forgive so they can be reintegrated into society and don’t reoffend.

They have a rehabilitation period which restores them back to normal life. Many businesses are helping with this period.

Timpson’s the company that cuts keys and repairs shoes. Has 400 ex-offenders that are working within the company. They have been doing this for 12 years and only 3 people reoffended.

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Restorative Justice

Restorative justice is a system of criminal justice which focuses on the rehabilitation of criminals by apologising and talking with the victims.

Important for criminals because:

Makes them realise the effects of their crime

Brings them face to face with their victims

Realise their crimes have consequences so that they turn here back on crime

Jewish attitudes

Agree with restorative justice as brings peace and reconciliation between victim and criminal – intentions of the Tanakh and Talmud

SOWA “learn to do good; seek justice” Isaiah

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Human Rights

Human rights acts of 1998. Includes laws on crime and punishment.

  • “Freedom of torture
  • Freedom of expression as long as doesn’t break the law
  • The right to a fair trial and access to a legal representation
  • Many more….”


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Jewish Views

Jewish attitudes to the treatment of criminals

Criminals treated fairly, and rabbis have a church service for prisoners

Talmud teaches that harsh punishments can drive prisoners to a lifetime of bad behaviour. Punishment aimed at restorative justice

Jews believe in the right to a fair trial with a jury. In Israel, criminals are judged by a panel of judges and have free legal representation.

Judaism and human rights

Jews support human rights.

Tanakh teaches Jews to stand up for those who can’t protect themselves.

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Judaism and torture

Opposed to torture

Israel signed act against torture.

Tanakh says god opposes hurting others.

SOWA “defend the cause of the weak and fatherless “Psalm

Torah says that people made in the image of god, so people shouldn’t be tortured

However, Jewish law have conflicting principles as it states that in order to save innocent lives Jews should di anything if that killing them.

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Torture 2

 Humanists believe criminals should have:

  •  A fair trial
  • Treated humanely
  • Juveniles shouldn’t be trailed like adults

If criminals treated fairly then innocent suspects treated fairly.

They are supporters of human rights.

Atheists have the same views as humanists.

  • Some believe that in some cases criminals shouldn’t be allowed human rights.
  • Some also believe that torturing should be allowed on terrorists to get information to stop terrorist attacks.
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Death Penalty

Capital punishment is where a criminal is killed by the authorities (government/state) for their crime.

The UK has abolished (no longer uses) the death penalty.

Lethal injection or electrocution.

Countries that have the death penalty believe it is a detterence to stop crime. Also retribution for victims ie. murderers 

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Arguments for

Arguments for:

  • It protects us as the criminal is no longer alive and cannot hurt us.
  • It is deterrence and puts criminals off crime.
  • It allows retribution – victims’ families can get their own back 
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Arguments against

Arguments against:

  • The person might be found to be innocent later on.
  • Two wrongs do not make a right.
  • In the USA capital punishment does not reduce crime.
  • It is inhumane. No form of capital punishment can be 100% painless.
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Jewish attitudes

Jews believe:

  • capital punishment is an acceptable use if it is a last resort because criminal is a recurring offender
  • Torah and Talmud state that death penalty allowed for certain instances because the criminals have free will and have been warned.
  • It works as a deterrent and protects society.


  • it is a possibility that the criminal is innocent and therefore could kill an innocent victim.
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right

SOWA “Sanhedrin that executes is a murderer” mishnesh

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Humanist and atheist attitudes

Humanists believe:

Don’t agree as denies the right to life recognised by Article 3 of Human Rights that humanists believe in.

Could kill an innocent person

Terrorists who get killed get known as martyrs. These are then made heroes and could encourage more to kill to become heroes.

Atheists believe:

Same as humanists but some also agree with death penalty because:

Work as a deterrent so fewer murders

Protects society

Death penalty is the only true form of retribution (compensation)

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