5 The Purpose of Criminal Punishment

  • Published 2005


D society have the right to punish? Is the infliction of punishment morally justifiable? These complex questions will be addressed in the following discussion of the rationale, justification, and nature of punishment. Rules about punishment, such as how much punishment can be inflicted and for what kinds of behavior, are of course contained in laws and regulations, so in this sense law justifies punishment. However, the moral justification for punishment is a separate issue from the legal justification because, although the law may provide for the infliction of punishment, society’s moral justification for punishment still has to be established. In order to better understand the nature of punishment, it is first necessary to examine its conceptual basis, and then consider the various theories that have been developed to morally justify society’s infliction of punishment. These theories are deterrence, retribution, just deserts, rehabilitation, incapacitation, and more recently, restorative justice. As well, it is important to appreciate that there are three perspectives about the issue of punishment: the philosophical, the sociological, and the criminological. Each perspective represents a different and distinct way of looking at the issue of punishment, and each will be addressed in this chapter.

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@inproceedings{20055TP, title={5 The Purpose of Criminal Punishment}, author={}, year={2005} }