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Updated: Jul 31, 2021

Discuss various theories of punishment. State your opinion as to which theory is most suit¬able for criminal justice.


A.person If said to be punished when some pain or harm is inflicted on him. This may range from the death penalty to a nominal fine. following aro various theories & purposes of punishments -

(1)Deterrent Punishment First and the most important object of criminal justice is to deter (discourage) people from committing crimes. The idea is not to punish the wrongdoer only but others should also learn a lesson that commissioning of crime is a bad bargain. Thus the first and most important aim of punishment is not revenge but terror. Exemplary punishment should be given to the criminal so that others may learn a lesson from him, According to Mann - “Penalty keeps the people under control, penalty protects them, the penalty remains awake when people are asleep, so the wise have regarded punishment as a source of truth." This theory has been the basis of punishment in almost ay. systems cf law yet there Is a lot of criticism of this theory. It is said that this theory has proved ineffective in checking crime. The fear of the unknown is very great and on this ground punishment losses, it's horror when once a criminal is punished.

(2) Preventive Punishment It means the punishment should be preventive or disabling i.e. the offenders should be prevented from committing a crime or they should be disabled. In this theory, offenders are disabled from repeating the offenses (by giving them such punishments as imprisonment, death, exile, or forfeiture of office). By putting a person, (who has committed a crime), behind the bars, he is prevented from committing another crime, by the dismissal of a person from his ' office, where he has misused his office, he is deprived of the opportunity to commit a crime again, the 'license of a Truck Driver is canceled because of his negligent driving resulting in a serious accident, now he is prevented from committing accident again. However, critics point out that preventive punishment has the undesirable effect of hardening the first offenders or child (juvenile) offenders by putting them in the association of hardened criminals.

(3) Reformative punishment The Central idea of this theory is that the crime should be treated as a disease. A criminal likes a patient and the punishment like medicine. Our purpose must be to mend criminals' father then to end them. Even if an offender commits a crime, he does not cease to be a human being, He may have committed a crime under circumstances that might never occur again, Therefore an opportunity must be given to him to mend his ways. The object should be 'to bring about the moral reform of the offender. Reformative punishment tries to check the commission of crimes by reforming the criminal or bringing out a change for the better in his character. Criminologists believe that criminal tendency is a disease curable like any other disease. Just a disease can be cured in its early stages, so first or young. offenders can be cursed of their tendency to commit crimes by confinement and suitable treat¬ment in reformatories and Borstal institutions. Modern thinkers prefer that punishment should be reformative and it must wean away offenders - especially first offenders and juveniles - from the path of crime by diverting their thoughts in other channels through persons in reformatory, special schools, etc. Salmond raises his objections against the purely reformative theory as follows :

(1) It is not proper for hardened criminals - Some persons are so Vicious that crime becomes a part of their nature. The reformative theory would give up such persons in despair as incurable. Deterrent and preventive punishment would deprive such persons of liberty or even of life, and this disables them from being a menace to society. those who are prepared to commit crimes.

(2) Crime will become a profitable industry which will flourish exceedingly - because many persons will be tempted to commit the offense in the hope of being sent to prison to be treated well there in such comforts which the wrongdoer could not afford.

(3) It is not practicable ever in the case of the abnormal, degenerate, or mentally unsound person. First, there is no short dividing line between normal and abnormal humans. beings and sec- only, in the generality of cases, deterrent punishment cures even an abnormal and degenerate person of their desire to lead a criminal life. However, the greatest objection to the individualized treatment of criminals is the money that is required to spend and our imperfect knowledge of criminology. It is also said that if this theory is adopted then commissioning of crimes would become a profitable industry. This theory is of no use in the case of hardened and habitual criminals.

(4) Retributive Punishment Kant has been an important supporter of this theory. It is said that the purpose of criminal justice .is vengeance, if one person had done something wrong then he also must be dealt with in the sam^manner. It is also said that an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth is deemed to be a complete and self-sufficient rule of natural justice and the same is the idea underlying this theory. The idea of this theory is that evil should be returned for evil. Although this system of criminal justice is considered barbaric and outdated and the rule of private vengeance or revenge has been abolished, yet no one can deny that this theory still plays an important role in the systems of criminal justice of most of the countries because most of the coun¬tries have retained capital punishment (death penalty) which is the best form of punishment accord¬ing to this theory-being “life for life". According to Salmond retributive punishment gratifies the in¬stincts of revenge or retaliation which exists not only in the individual wronged but also (by way of sympathy) in the society's large.

(5)The theory of compensation:- According to this theory, the object of punishment must not be only to prevent further crime, but also to compensate the victim of the crime. This theory further believes that the mainspring of criminality is greed, and if .the offender is made to return the ill-gotten benefits of the crime, the spring of criminality would be dried up.

Conclusion - What should be the modern approach to the problem of criminality? Which. the theory is perfect? According to prof. Salmond reformative theory alone is not sufficient. The perfect system of criminal justice is based on neither the reformative nor the deterrent principle exclusively but is the result of a compromise between them. It is therefore suggested that punishment should be reformative so far as it is possible, to reform the offender especially if he is a first offender or juvenile but deterrent preventive aspects should not be ignored as the primary object of justice is to prevent crime. Punishment may be light in orderly and law-abiding societies, but where there are signs of turbulence or of a “crime-wave” deterrent and exemplary punishment should be awarded.

We might say that the administration of criminal justice cannot have any of the above purposes as the single standard cf punishment. A perfect penal code must be a judicious combination of those various purposes of punishment. No theory of punishment is a complete answer by itself. As has rightly been said, all theories of punishment require the support of each other.


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