Theories of Punishment



  • Punishment is the infliction of a penalty as retribution for an offence

  • Crime requires punishment

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7 Features of Punishment Walker 1991


  • Involves inflicting something that is assumedly negative to the individual on the receiving end
  • Behaviourism has two types of punishment, positive and negative
  • Positive is adding something unpleasant or unwanted

  • Negative is removing something desirable, that the individual being punished wanted

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7 Features of Punishment Walker 1991


  • The individual who inflicted the punishment meant to do so for a specific reason
  • Punishments are made to protect society

  • Prevent future offending

  • To provide rehabilitation
  • To deter individuals from committing crimes
  • To bring justice for the victim
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7 Features of Punishment Walker 1991

  • Those who order punishment upon an individual are seen as having the right to do so
  • Judge

  • Jury

  • Police

  • CPS

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7 Features of Punishment Walker 1991

  • The occasion for punishment inflicted is an action or failure to act which infringes a law, rule or custom
  • Crime leads to punishment

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7 Features of Punishment Walker 1991

  • The individual punished has played a voluntary part in the infringement
  • Case Study = Mick Philpott 2013

  • Jailed for life for killing 6 children in a house fire

  • Judge stated his relationships were marked by control, aggression and fear

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7 Features of Punishment Walker 1991

  • The punisher’s reason to punish is to offer justification for doing so
  • Case Study = Amanda Hutton

  • Convicted of manslaughter for negligent behaviour to the point her baby died in order to feed her alcohol addiction

  • Some argue that this wasn’t a justifiable reason for punishment, and that she should’ve got murder rather than manslaughter

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7 Features of Punishment Walker 1991

  • The belief or intention of the person who orders something to be done
  • In England and wales short term custody was associated with higher re offending rates in comparison to community and suspended sentence orders

  • 13,700 or 37.9% of young offenders re offended within a year of receiving a caution, non-custodial sentence or  release from custody

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  • The idea that the harm inflicted upon society by an offender should be counterbalanced by a proportionate punishment
  • Suggesting that punishment is a deserved consequence of behaviour

  • Punishing is a duty to everyone

  • The offender deserves to be punished

  • Punishment is not revenge, only the offender should suffer

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Utilitarian Theory

  • Punishment is justified by its predicted future consequences

  • Utility of punishment should reduce the frequency in which people break laws and rules that are made for a contented society

  • To deter offenders from reoffending

  • To place the offender somewhere they cannot offend anymore

  • Punishing an offender results in a greater good for the majority of people involved

  • Useful for rehabilitation to reduce offending rates

  • Believes that it is okay for more than just the offender to suffer as it is for the greater good

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Retributive and Utilitarian Theories in Public Opi

  • Both traditions are reflected in public opinion

  • 2 out of 5 members of the public believe the offender should be given what they deserve

  • 3 out of 5 members of the public endorse aims like deterrence, public protection and reform

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Humanitarian Theory

  • Offenders can come from disadvantaged backgrounds- socially and economically

  • Offenders may have been victims of criminal abuse during their childhood

  • When seeing deprivation and victimisation within an offender’s past it could be argued that in a humane society offenders are deserving of rehabilitative endeavours according to Crow 2001

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Capital Punishment and Homicide

  • Retribution believes that these crimes are so severe they deserve the death penalty

  • Utilitarian Theory believes that these crimes eliminate the dangerous individuals from society, act as a deterrence from committing these crimes, educates people of how evil murder is and satisfies the outraged

  • Humanitarian Approach believes that these crimes are false positives and deserve rehabilitation

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