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Cesare Beccaria & Punishment

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Cesare Beccaria & Punishment

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  • Feb. 2013
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Justin Perry

Cesare Beccaria was an Italian jurist, enlightenment thinker, and philosopher. In 1794, he wrote On Crimes and Punishment. In this book, he talked against torture and the death penalty, but he was most famous for laying a foundation of penology, which deals with the repression of criminal activities and punishment of crimes committed. Beccaria was most famous for declaring that “a punishment should fit the crime.” He meant several things by this, but most importantly was his two main points. This first way he said that the punishment should fit the crime is that the severity of punishment should parallel the severity of harm resulting from the crime. This did not mean that if someone was a murderer, that they should be put to death. Beccaria publicly condemned the death penalty because he said that the state does not possess the right to take lives, and that it is not a very useful form of punishment. He stood for a more deterrent function of the penal system. When he said it must match the damages of the offense and parallel the harm of the crime, he was more referring along the lines of punishment and incarceration. His second point was that the punishment should be severe enough to outweigh the pleasure of committing the crime. For example, someone might look at sexual assault as pleasurable, therefore the punishment needs to be severe enough for that person to think, “Wow, the punishment is harsh, it’s not worth committing this crime.” If this wasn’t the case, a rational person would weigh the gain with the consequence, and determine that the crime is worth committing because if that’s only my punishment, then why not. People speed because speeding tickets are simply fines, if you were to be booked and incarcerated, I’m sure people would speed less. Not saying that this is how it should be, it’s just the most blatant example. The problem with this second point is that it only applies to rational thinking people, and it doesn’t really...

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