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The Effects of Punishment and Sentencing, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1056

Essay

The idea of punishment and sentencing has always been not only in the scope of criminal justice, but of human society, as well. Exactly the effects of punishment and sentencing inspired this paper. The nature of the problem will be revealed through analysis of the integral role of sentencing and punishment in the criminal justice process, and their effects on society. Also, there are several essential points that should be discussed in the paper, concerning the problem: the fundamental philosophies surrounding the purpose of sentencing; the factors that influence the determination of a sentence; the debate surrounding capital punishment.

Throughout the human history, a person has faced criminal actions, and the necessity to punish for a crime committed. In the traditions of some ancient tribes, revenge was a natural consequence of a crime; even some modern peoples continue this tradition. In the modern world, the punishment, without legitimate criminal investigations and court decisions, seems to be impossible. A sentence for a criminal action should be justified by the state law that does not explain the purpose of the sentence. Thus, it is necessary to deepen into the purpose of sentencing.

According to Gaines and Miller (2006), there are “the four basic philosophical reasons for sentencing – retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation” (Gaines & miller, 2006, p. 257). Retribution can be looked trough the light of legal revenge: a person commits a crime, and society (in the face of criminal justice) deservedly punishes him. Thus, being punished, a criminal gets his fairing.

Deterrence is a measure for preventing future possible crimes. Traditionally, the severity of punishment can correspond to the severity of a crime, and its deterrent value. The same researchers believe that “be “setting an example”, society is sending a message to potential criminals that certain actions will not tolerated” (Gaines & Miller, 2006, p. 257). In contrast to retribution, deterrence surely serves the community; for this reason, it can be considered more meaningful for both criminals and society.

Incapacitation seems to be unreliable purpose, concerning prevention of a crime. The state limits the criminal’s legal capacity, but it can not guarantee that a criminal will not commit a crime again. On release, criminals have many chances to repeat a crime, and do harm to members of society. The idea of incapacitation increases the risk of a second offence.

Rehabilitation is the fourth purpose of sentencing that can be considered as a humane social act that allows a crime to be treated and cured, after he commits a crime. In this context, a crime is “caused not by the inherent criminality of a person, but by factors in that person’s surroundings” (Gaines & Miller, 2006, p. 259). Rehabilitation seems to be more effective if a criminal is a nonviolent offender, who may easily analyze his own criminal action, or who is able to rethink his wrong deed.

Consequently, the four mentioned purpose of sentencing are directed to the just punishment for a crime. In terms of the factors that influence the determination of a sentence, the proportionality plays an essential role in sentencing. For example, the UK’s sentencing system is “based on the seriousness of the offence and just deserts” (Bagaric, 2001, p. 166). Of course, various countries realize a proportionality principle in their own may; besides, there are different terms of imprisonment, depending on a crime. Also, in the Canadian sentencing system,  “…the paramount principle governing the determination of a sentence is that the sentence be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender for an offence” (Bagaric, 2001, p. 166).

Thus, most legislative systems of the world stick to the principle that a certain crime must fit a certain punishment. Nevertheless, in the same time, legislation may reduce the term of imprisonment. Such factor as a criminal’s modal behavior may reduce the years spent behind bars. Legislative system of a country may influence the determination of each specific sentence. For example, in one country, for a cruel murder, committed for the first time, the maximum and minimum term of imprisonment can be from fifteen to twenty years, whereas in another country, it can be from twenty to twenty five years (Bagaric, 2001). Thus, such factors as sentencing and legislative systems, proportionality and model behavior may be those factors that influence a sentence.

There are many controversial discussions surrounding measures of punishment for a crime, and the debates surrounding capital punishment is not an exception. Some people think that the idea of capital punishment is immoral and inhumane. Nevertheless, some of them consider that capital punishment is the only just measure of punishment for a severe criminal. Thus, there are supporters of life imprisonment, and those of the death penalty. The supporters of the death penalty base upon the deterrent effect; the presence of the death penalty for a certain crime can decrease the severe crime rates: “…people are afraid of dying, and therefore, the possibility of being sentenced to death for committing certain crimes discourages people from committing those crimes” (Marzilli, 2008, p. 20). Those who are against the death penalty believe that it may not help to decrease a criminal rate; besides, there is the risk to kill a truly innocent person. According to them, the only civilized and humane punish for a severe criminal is life imprisonment (Guernsey, 2009). For the reason that some countries preserve death penalty in their legislative systems, and some have denied from this measure, the debates surrounding death penalty abolition and its controversial nature have always been burning.

Criminal justice of all countries is based on their legislative system that predetermines different measures of punishment and terms of imprisonment. A criminal is sentenced for reasons of deterrence, rehabilitation, incapacitation, and retribution. The idea of capital punishment is still the controversial point to be discussed in society. People’s opinions concerning just sentence for a criminal vary; for this reason, punishment and sentencing have different effects on modern society, and cause debates surrounding criminal issues.

References

Bagaric, M. (2001). Punishment and Sentencing. London, UK: Routledge.

Gaines, L. K., & Miller, R. L. (2006). Punishment and Sentencing. In J. Michelle & M. Boggs (Eds.). Criminal Justice in Action: the Core (5th ed.) (pp. 254-284). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Guernsey, G. B. (2009). Death Penalty: Fair solution or Moral Failure? Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Book.

Marzilli, A. (2008). Capital Punishment (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Infobase Publishing.

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