The concept of “just deserts” can be most effectively described in the writings of Andrew Von Hirsch. Basically those who commit crime deserve to be punished and by punishing them it may prevent further crimes from being committed (Siegel, 2012). There have been many different positions on this theory of just deserts. Some argue against while others strongly defend the effectiveness of this theory. We will look at both sides of the argument and review the pros and cons of each. The main rationale behind this theory is that committing a crime is wrong therefore a person should be punished for the crime they committed. For some this “eye for an eye” attitude bares a close resemblance to vengeance. Of course this is not the goal of the criminal justice system. Vengeance has no place within the criminal justice system. Therefore, the criminal justice system looks at the crime that was committed rather than the person involved in the crime (Sullivan, 2007). So, essentially we are deciding on the punishment by the severity of the crime committed with no regard to the individual who committed the act. We decide on the punishment according to how much harm was done (McKee, 2007). Unfortunately, this theory disregards other factors that are present which include the circumstances surrounding the crime. Perhaps it is because of this reason that many scholars disagree with the just desert doctrine. The goals of the criminal justice system are retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation (Wald, 2001). Unfortunately, retribution in many cases is the only goal that is really accomplished by some of the harsh punishments that are handed down under the “just deserts” doctrine. Deterrence may be accomplished by deterring others from committing the same crime; however it often fails to deter the offender that was punished. One report showed that within three years 24.2% of convicted offenders were reconvicted of a new crime after their release...
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