The Integral Role Sentencing Plays in the Criminal Justice Process

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The Integral Role Sentencing Plays In the Criminal Justice Process

There are four philosophies that are considered when it comes to the sentencing of a criminal. These philosophies are:


Retribution is a philosophy that a wrong doer who has freely chosen to violate society’s rules must be punished. Retribution relies on the principal of “just deserts”, this holds that the severity of the punishment hold to the severity of the crime. This philosophy is not the same as revenge because retribution is more concerned with the rules of society as a whole, rather than the individualism revenge has had on the victim or victims the offender. Most dictionaries give the meaning of retribution as “repayment”. Public speakers and media hold forth that criminals “repay their debt to society”.


Deterrence is a philosophy that is concerned with preventing crimes as opposed to retribution. This philosophy sets an example for society by relaying the message that crimes and certain actions will not be tolerated. There are two forms of deterrence: General deterrence and specific deterrence. General deterrence is a basic principle that by punishing one criminal, others may be dissuaded from committing similar crimes. Specific deterrence is a principle that assumes an individual, after being punished, will not be likely to repeat that criminal offense again with the fear of receiving the same punishment.


Incapacitation is a philosophy that incarcerating criminals may guarantee that the individual will no longer be a threat to society, as with the term incarceration. The theory of capital punishment in the incapacitation theory is it prevents the criminal from committing any future crimes. However, the role of imprisonment or incapacitation on criminals as a deterrent has been difficult to pin down. In Elliot Currie’s book; Crime and Punishment (1998) Assessing the Prison Experiment, he stated that in the 1970-1980’s a...
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