Retributive, Utilitarian and Rehabilitative Justice Compared

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Retributive, Utilitarian and Rehabilitative Justice Compared

The three justice theories or views, which include utilitarianism, rehabilitative or a retributive style of justice, are multifaceted. It is not easy to sum the aspects of each without lengthy discussion. Therefore, I will try to maximize my efforts and offer concise answers. It is fair to note that my belief system correlates strongly with retributive style justice theory. Nevertheless, I will compare all three theories accordingly.

First, I would like to debate the utilitarian theory of justice. Certainly, the assumption would be that a practical approach to justice would produce a sensible result. However, I think that the term utilitarian is misleading because the major focus within this theory is “forward-looking” or placing emphasis on “reform, prevention, and deterrence” (Pojman 119). Of course, to prevent or deter crime is an attractive choice. Yet, I do not agree that prevention or deterrence will be successful. For instance, taunting the public with threats of the death penalty does not seem effective at deterring violent crimes. Then again, you have to implement the penalty to have it work. In a study conducted between 1973 and 1995, and according to extensive research, “only 5 percent of all people who had been given the death penalty since 1973 have been executed” (Butterfield). As a result, this leads me to believe that if the threat of the death penalty is not working, neither is the method of deterrence. Additionally, the idea of reform might supersede the handing down of equal punishment to fit the crime committed. An example of that might be that a focus on rehabilitative measures could fail to execute justice on the victim’s behalf. Is it justifiable to treat the criminal instead of punishing? I am not convinced that it is of the greatest interest in society to disregard the crime by helping only the criminal. As an example, if a man is mentally imbalanced and he commits murder, should we treat him medically or put him to death? The victim would most likely want the punishment to fit the crime. Not to mention, that the criminal is now a menace to all of society as well. Personally, I think that the utilitarian way is equivalent to saying its okay to cause harm as long as you are sorry or incapable of controlling your actions. If that is the rule, then where is the incentive for all members of society to follow the law? The utilitarian theory does not provide for an evenhanded form of justice to all parties affected.

Next, I would like to analyze the rehabilitative theory. Although I have already made comment in regards to rehabilitative justice, within the utilitarian model, I would like to investigate this style of justice further. For instance, the explanation that “crime is a disease” does not sit well with me (Pojman 120). The thought that a “punishment temporarily suppresses adverse behavior” does not work for me either (Pojman 120). If an individual is so ill that they cannot be trusted in society to refrain from harming others, then perhaps, they do not belong in society, period! Certainly, I am emphasizing violent crime and petty crime would be less severe. Still, is it more essential to help this lost soul or protect the common folk that willingly and successfully conform to the welfare of the community? After all, who is being punished, the victim or the criminal, what is the objective here? With that said, I would like to challenge the supporters of rehabilitative justice to explain to the parents of Chelsea King that their daughter’s murderer needs therapy and not the death penalty (San Diego News Network). In addition, socialization of a criminal is not producing good results. Our text states, “There are limits to what socialization and medical technology can do” (Pojman 121). I agree and anyone that has taken a basic psychology class should be able to comprehend this restriction or limit to rehabilitating criminals. I...
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