Aims of Punishment
Punishment: something done to a person because they have broken a law
Protection: keeping the public from being harmed, threatened or injured by criminals
Retribution: an aim of punishment – to get your own back: ‘an eye for an eye’
Deterrence: an aim of punishment – to put people off committing crimes
Reform: an aim of punishment – to change someone’s behaviour for the better
Vindication: an aim or punishment that means offenders must be punished to show that the law must be respected and is right
Reparation: an aim of punishment designed to help an offender to put something back into society
This is a great website for revision on Purposes of Punishment.
Moral Debate of Punishment
Everyone has their own idea of why criminals should be punished. Some say it should be to protect the rest of society, some say to make an example of the criminal, some say it should be to help the criminal change their ways, some say its revenge.
When punishing someone there are moral debates raised about whether we should take into account the criminals personal circumstances, history, criminal record, family situation. Others say this is irrelevant all criminals should be treated the same.
People will look to religious teachings and texts for guidance on how they should respond to punishment, others may think from their own perspective, some may use a non-religious way of thinking such as Utilitarianism and Humanism.
There is a good summary of the arguments for and against Capital Punishment here.
“An Eye for an Eye, A Tooth for a Tooth… A Life for a Life”
This quote is often used as religious justification of retribution, in the Bible, Qu’ran and Torah there is similar teachings, that criminals should get a punishment fitting of their crime. In the UK, retribution can be found in Community Service, Fines and outside the UK – Capital Punishment is a form of retribution.
Some argue that this is not a positive response to punishment and should not be the main aim of punishment.
Although others argue that it shows criminals that crimes will not be tolerated.
Many believe that it is important to forgive, and they believe that punishment should be an opportunity for criminals to show remorse and forgiveness should be given. This is key in many religions such as Christianity. Jesus taught it was important to forgive.
This is how many people would approach punishment.
Essay Questions on Purposes Punishment
If you are asked about the Moral debate surrounding the purposes punishment in an exam you can approach this question in many ways. You can look at the different purposes of punishment, the arguments for and against each punishment and why people may debate on whether it is an appropriate aim. You could also look at religious and non- religious perspectives on punishment. Why do religious people hold views on punishment, what influences them.
Read how to write an essay question here.