In a system of justice that favors retribution, a wrongdoer who has freely chosen to violate society’s rules must be punished for the infraction. Retribution relies on the principle of just deserts, which holds that the severity of the punishment must be in proportion to the severity of the crime. This is not the same as revenge because retribution is more concerned with the needs of society as a whole instead of just the victim or victims. Deterrence seeks to punish wrongdoers and to prevent future crimes by “setting an example.
By setting an example society is sending a message to potential criminals that certain actions will not be tolerated. There are two forms of deterrence: general and specific. The basic idea of general deterrence is that by punishing one person, others will be dissuaded from committing a similar crime. Specific deterrence assumes that an individual, after being punished once for a certain act, will be less likely to repeat that act because she or he does not want to be punished again. Incapacitation is another strategy for preventing crime.
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Incapacitation is the detention of wrongdoers in prison, preventing the offender from committing any future crimes. The final philosophy is rehabilitation. The philosophy of rehabilitation is that society is best served when wrongdoers are not simply punished, but provided the resources needed to eliminate criminality from their behavioral patterns. Factors of Sentencing The sentencing ritual strongly lends itself to the concept of individualized justice. There are two factors that most judges consider before sentencing a wrongdoer, the seriousness of the crime and if there are any mitigating or aggravating circumstances.
The Seriousness of the Crime is the primary factor in a judge’s sentencing decision. The more serious the crime is, the harsher the punishment. Every judge has their own method of determining the seriousness of an offense. Most judges will simply consider the “conviction offense”; that’s where they base the sentence on the crime for which the defendant was convicted. Other judges focus on the “real offense” in determining the punishment for a wrongdoer. The “real offense” is based on the actual behavior of the defendant, regardless of the official conviction.
Many prosecutors and defense attorneys are opposed to “real offense” procedures because they can render a plea bargain meaningless. Mitigating and aggravating circumstances are circumstances surrounding a crime that may prompt a judge to adjust the sentence so that it more accurately reflects the totality of the crime. Mitigating circumstances are circumstances that may justify a lighter sentence and aggravating circumstances are circumstances may justify a harsher sentence. A defendant’s youth or the fact that the defendant was coerced into committing the crime could be considered a mitigating circumstance.
A prior record, a blatant disregard for safety, or the use of a weapon can be aggravating circumstances that could lead a judge to inflict a harsher penalty than might otherwise be the case. Capital Punishment Capital punishment is the use of the death penalty to punish wrongdoers for certain crimes. Capital punishment is the ultimate deterrent by rendering those executed incapable of committing further crimes. If a murderer is dead they will no longer be a threat to society. Another viewpoint is that the criminal justice system is infallible.
What this viewpoint says is that many American men and women who had been convicted of capital crimes and sentenced to death were later found to be innocent. That is the problem with the system that sometimes prosecutors will convict an innocent person just to close a case. Conclusion The four basic philosophical reasons for sentencing are an integral part of our criminal justice system. There are some factors that that can affect how a wrongdoer is punished. The debate surrounding capital punishment will most likely never end since every side has their own viewpoints.