The six reasons why we punish people

I studied law at high school and I was very good at it. But one thing I could never get my head around was the six aims of sentencing. When it came to punishing people, what was the point of any of it, other than rehabilitation? Surely that was our only job?

Times of changed and now I am older and wiser. My idealistic view of humans has taken a kicking at the hands of Steven Pinker and Michael Shermer. So, here are the other five aims of sentencing and why they are important.

Reparation

Never had a problem with this one. If you can make it right, you should. I don’t think that view would be in any way controversial.

Protection

A necessary evil. Sometimes we need to lock people up to stop them hurting other people, or even themselves.

Detterence and denunication

I’ll put denunciation in here because there is a lot of overlap with general deterrence. Specific deterrence is making the individual criminal think twice before doing it again; general deterrence is making wider society think twice before doing it in the first place.

Both of these are important. Why? Because people are not inherently good. They’re not evil, either. They’re just people.

And, ultimately, people weigh up the consequences of their actions. And if the risk is worth the prize, they risk it.

So, you need carrot and stick. You need to give them a job and a place in the community to give them something to lose if they commit a crime. But you also need to make the deal not worthwhile with some stick, too.

Retribution

This is the most contested aim of sentencing: punishing people because they deserve to be punished.

Why do we need to do this? Because people want to live in a fair world. And it causes us distress when that view is broken. When you find out there has been wrong-doing, you feel bad. You physically feel it. It makes us sad when we hear about unfairness.

So, crimes have to be punished. Just for the sake of adding an extra wrong, because, as we adults know, two wrongs do genuinely make a right. When someone is punished, it restores a sense of fairness to the universe and we all feel better.

Comments
Free newsletter

Don't have time to check my blog? Get a weekly email with all the new posts. This is my personal blog, so obviously it is 100% spam free.

Metadata

Tags: ,

This entry was posted on Monday, November 13th, 2017 at 11:00 am and is filed under Religion & Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.