Morality and Justice – Revision Notes

Another set of amazing revision note for Religion and Justice. These again were sent in by a former Higher RMPS pupil. Great to help with consolidating your notes.

Purposes of Punishment


    • Punishment should make the criminal pay for what they have done wrong
    • Examples include community service & fines


Release of anger When does cycle of retribution end?
Deterrent values e.g. less likely to graffiti if you have spent 100 hours cleaning it Have been examples of people who have been executed or imprisoned, however years later further proof comes to light & it is discovered these people were innocent
Shows you won’t be the victim of crime without issuing a pay back Does it really make the victim feel better issuing the same punishment


  • Punishment should put people off committing crime
  • Examples include prison & electronic tagging
Benefits Drawbacks
People will avoid doing wrong because they will have been put off by knowing what will happen to them No good way of checking just how much crime would have happened if people hadn’t been put off
Deterrence is better than retribution. It aims to put off crime before it happens but by the time retribution is served, the damage is done Offenders don’t generally think about what is right or wrong of what they are doing or what the consequences are
If deterrence works then crimes will be greatly reduced, the world will be a nicer place and you won’t ever have to come face to face with the long arm of the law Whether or not it is right for society to use some people as an example & punish them harshly just to warn others of


  • Punishment should reform the criminal
  • Examples include rehabilitation for prisoners with addiction & education for prisoners
Benefits Drawbacks
If it works, you wouldn’t reoffend & on release might work to stop others committing crime you got into jail for People on outside don’t trust criminals as they find it hard to believe people really change, meaning efforts to reform are wasted
Won’t leave prison wanting to get revenge on society & might come out feeling grateful for help received Expensive to run reformative punishments/treatments & if a criminal leaves prison & returns to crime, money has been wasted
Society protected from you committing any more crime If prison is about reformation, it might become a nice cushy place – Won’t protect society as criminal comes out same way went in


  • Punishment should protect society from the criminal & the criminal from themselves
  • Examples include murderers being locked up for life & the death penalty
Benefits Drawbacks
Offender in prison means they cannot commit crime again Offender released at some point & if haven’t changed ways, released back into society ready to commit crime
If offender has been punished, hopefully been put off committing crime again Prisoners kept in an enclosed space together. Could lead to teaching each other new skills
Everyone happier apart from the criminal (main point) Time in prison may cause offender to become more & more resentful & angry at society


Religious viewpoint – Christian

  • Retribution – Old testament says, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (Exodus 21:24-25) which seems to justify retribution as a punishment. However, the New testament says, “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38-39) meaning that forgiveness is more important than retribution
  • Reform – Support reformative punishments because they believe that everyone can change for the better, no matter what they have done. There have been a few Church of Scotland ministers’ who are ex-offenders, and who are now good living people making a positive difference in other people’s lives
  • Protection – Strong should protect the weak. Need to protect innocent people from harm, but also need to protect criminals from doing harm unto themselves
  • Deterrence – Don’t believe in taking revenge when they have been wronged. Believe they should forgive sins of others, in same way they believe God forgives them for their sins. Believe in justice & therefore Christians believe that criminals should be treated justly

Non-religious viewpoint – Utilitarian

  • Retribution – Retribution brings about more suffering for not only the criminal, but for their families. Cannot undo what has already happened to cause suffering but can prevent more
  • Reform – May support reform as this will bring a positive outcome for both the offender and for society. If the offender is reformed then they are no longer a danger to society, making it a happier and safer place and it may also result in greater happiness for the offender if they have the opportunity to change and are given a second chance
  • Protection – Agree with protection as it aims to protect society and therefore would create greatest happiness/good for everyone. It can also involve protecting the offender from society
  • Deterrence – May support deterrence if it works as this would reduce crime and therefore create more happiness. However, they may be against it if it means too harsh a punishment is used to set an example as this can bring about more suffering

Causes of crime

Cause of crime Moral issues Religious viewpoint – Christian Non-religious viewpoint – Secular
Poverty – Person might commit crime as they are in poverty e.g. stealing food out of desperation Whether it is really a choice for the person to commit the crime as they are in a desperate situation, and as such is it really fair to punish them?


Issues around impact of punishment e.g. sentencing someone to prison will affect ability to get a job, putting them into more poverty


Isn’t just offender who can be affected, could result in children being put into care too


Raises issue of are we doing enough to help these people, so they don’t turn to crime



Wealthy should be charitable & use wealth to ensure everyone has enough for their needs.


Punishment takes into account circumstances

Have to create a kind of society where poverty & economic imbalance is eradicated, meaning no need to commit crime of economic factors


If we want to do it we have to do it ourselves & involve new laws, governments etc.


Can just as well be achieved by an individual refusing to buy products which have been produced through exploitation

Environmental – Person might commit crime because of their environment e.g. environment full of crime in which brought up in so they may also turn to crime Believe that in creating Kingdom of God on Earth they will then create a society in which crime would become thing of past  World is what we make of it


We have to live in whatever kind of world we create for ourselves


As a society, we have responsibilities towards each other to model positive behaviours, set realistic standards for behaviour & ensure all have equal chance of a meaningful/purposeful life


Mean criminal activities become unnecessary

Psychological factors –Person may commit a crime due to a severe mental health issue that prevents them from realising what they are doing at the time Whether the person can be held responsible for their actions when they may not have been in control of their behaviour


When sentencing since these crimes were not premeditated and therefore punishing them as a form of deterrence would be ineffective


Treatment of prisoners with mental health issues and their treatment in prison and the effect that prison may have on them


Reasons for crimes where we may feel sympathy and understanding for the offender, for example if someone is suffering from domestic abuse and then hurts their abuser

Praying for someone to get better Scottish Association for Mental Health – Offers help and support for addicts, unemployed & people struggling with suicide


UK responses to crime

  • Custodial sentencePrison sentence – Offender locked up for period of time, dependent upon severity of crime & likelihood of re-offending. Offender punished as freedom taken way. Protects society from offending behaviour


Benefits Drawbacks
·      Every prison in Scotland offers some sort of reform programme e.g. drug and alcohol rehabilitation, education, vocational training and therapy. It is hoped that by offering these facilities, prisoners will try to improve their own lives & become law abiding citizens who are equipped with essential life and work skills, upon their release

·      Children who possess a fundamental understanding of the law and know prison is not a place for fun may avoid breaking the laws

·      Criminals are removed from society to protect law-abiding citizens and assure a pattern of peace in the community

·      Prisons are expensive to run – In 2013-2014 the Scottish Government reported that the Scottish prison service cost £264 million

·      School of crime – Criminals can learn tips and tricks from each other and even form gangs in prison – These gangs can then force others into taking, selling or buying drugs

·      Effect on families – The imprisoned family member may have possessed the highest income with the household, which would leave the family with less or no money


  • Non-custodial sentence – Tagging – Offender has electronic tag attached to their ankle. Enforces a physical boundary & curfew for a set period of time. Given for range of crimes such as anti-social behaviour.


Benefits Drawbacks
·      This is a much cheaper option than prison, costing around £2000 a year

·      At any one time, 2000 people are tagged and completing their sentences at home or in a hostel, therefore removing more people from busy prisons.

·      With some tags, offenders can be tracked within two metres of their location which is particularly vital for those convicted of sex offences.

·      If a criminal must be back inside their house by 7pm, it means that prolific offenders such as burglars and shoplifters can still go out and commit crimes during daylight hours without the authorities knowing where they are

·      Doesn’t always stop violence e.g. Lewis Singleton, an 18 year old was brutally stabbed to death by a man who had a history of violence and had previously burgled a residence a few days before his curfew said he should have been at home

·      Harry Fletcher, National Association of Probation Officers said “There’s still no evidence that it has reduced crime or prevented offenders from committing further offences”


  • Non-custodial sentenceFines – Offender given an amount of money to pay back over a period of time. Often decided based upon level of income & ability to repay it. Given for crimes such as low-level traffic crime or drug possession.


Benefits Drawbacks
·      Keeps people out of prison for minor offences, thus keeping costs down

·      Acts as a deterrent – For some people even just the threat of receiving a fine is enough to put them off committing a crime

·      Able to tailor the cost of fines to the specific individual – This means that a person’s income may be considered before a fine is given to them.

·      When it comes to fines for speeding, illegal parking or littering, fixed penalty fines are used, meaning that a person would have to pay a certain amount regardless of their financial position

·      High reoffending rates for minor crimes such as speeding or littering, showing fines don’t act as a deterrent

·      As ordinary citizens, it isn’t likely that we know all the ins and outs of the law, which means we may commit a crime without even knowing it


  • Non-custodial sentence – Community payback order – Offender sentenced to a number of hours of unpaid work to complete within set time period. 30% of hours can be used to engage with therapeutic group work or vocational learning.
Benefits Drawbacks
·      Community service is one way to cut government cost on punishing offenders as it provides a less expensive approach with similar effect and helps in reducing the overcrowding problem in prison

·      Community service offers help to the offenders to rehabilitate themselves more effectively than in prison because by community service the offenders are able to give something back to the community as proof that they have changed

·      Only £3000 is needed to send a person to one year of community rehabilitation order – On average, sending a person to prison is 12 times higher.

·      Is it right to shame these people and make an example of them in order to put others off?

·      If you know that a crime will lead to a light sentence such as community service, then it won’t put you off doing it in the first place.

·      Offers little protection to society, because the offender will remain in the community and so will still be able to carry out further crimes



  • Crime prevention – Crime falls when the number of opportunities is reduced. Opportunities can be removed in the following ways. Using CCTV to deter shoplifters. Work with police & industry to ensure effective controls on sales of knives/offensive weapons. Working with those already in system to prevent further re-offending. Increased police presence at night. Getting drug/alcohol users treatment

Moral issues of punishment

  • Punishment is inconsistent – Not everyone gets the same punishment for same crime
  • Discrimination issue – Judges prefer not to imprison women (sexist)
  • Victims of crime can feel like justice wasn’t served
  • Cases where innocent people have been punished
  • Punishment doesn’t reform, and can actually make the offender worse (colleges of crime)

Capital punishment

Method Advantages Disadvantages
Hanging – Rope noose placed around neck. Trapdoor opens & felon falls quickly. Neck breaks, leading to death Most cases death is quick & relatively painless Occasionally neck doesn’t break. Slower and more painful death by strangulation
Electrocution – Felon strapped to special chair. Massive electric current passed through the body. Shock kills Reliable form of execution with rapid death Traumatic & painful as death isn’t always instantaneous
Lethal injection – Felon strapped to a bed. Tranquiliser given. Deadly chemical injected into body, leading to death Probably most humane form of execution


Painless/reliable with Doctor present to deal with any problems

Requires Doctor (trained to save lives & not assist in death)
Beheading – Sword or axe used to cut felon’s neck Quick death for felon when an efficient blow administered. Depends on ability of executioner Death may be prolonger & painful by mis-timed blows


Arguments for capital punishment

  • Capital punishment will deter would be murderers from killing people
  • Those executed cannot commit further crimes
  • Death penalty makes people feel safer
  • Capital punishment teaches bad things happen to those who deserve it. Reinforces contrary belief of good things happen to those that are good


Arguments against capital punishment

  • Innocent people will get killed because of mistakes/flaws in the justice system
  • Death penalty doesn’t seem to deter people from committing serious violent crimes
  • Capital punishment cannot make world a better place. In USA, more murders take place in states where capital punishment is allowed. The murder rate in states where the death penalty has been abolished was 4.01 per cent per 100,000 people. In states where the death penalty is used, the figure was 5.00 per cent
  • Capital punishment costs a great deal. World would be better place if money used for other reasons


Capital punishment – Religious – Christian

  • FOR – “an eye for an eye” Exodus 21:33. Means whatever crime you commit you should have same thing done to you. So if you take a life, your life is taken. Bible teaches strong should protect the weak. Capital punishment protects weak from criminals. Death penalty ensures criminal cannot repeat a crime.
  • AGAINST – “thou shalt not kill” Sixth Commandment. Capital punishment goes against this. Life is a gift from God & only he has power to take life. In the New Testament, Jesus teaches importance of forgiveness, teaching people to forgive those who have done wrong. An example of this is the parable of the lost son. Capital punishment is wrong as it doesn’t give society a chance to forgive criminal. Love thy neighbour referring to victim & offender


Capital punishment – Non-religious – Humanism

  • British Humanist Association are against capital punishment as it doesn’t work as deterrence & errors mean the state becomes responsible for killing innocent citizens
  • Argue that it is unreasonable/illogical to show killing is wrong by killing someone. Argue that the USA, where capital punishment has been retained in some states, have the highest murder rates in the world. In USA, number of murders didn’t rise when capital punishment was abolished

Religious morality

What might religious morality be based on?

How does religion help people make moral decisions?

  • Guidance found in Holy scriptures
  • Try to follow example set by key figures
  • Pray, asking for guidance
  • Discussion & debate with other followers
  • Follow guidance believed to be given by God

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