The Purposes of Punishment

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The purposes of punishment.
What are the purposes of punishment? Which do you consider to be the most important and why?

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Hand-in date: 21st of November 2011

To begin with, it is necessary to say that punishment is an integral part of modern countries’ legal systems, because countries have a duty to protect society from wrongdoers and authorities could reach success in it by punishing offenders. Oxford English Dictionary defines punishment as the infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offence. There are four main purposes of punishment – incapacitation, deterrence, retribution and rehabilitation – and the aim of this paper is to describe and analyze them and also to determine which purpose might be regarded as the most important. The first aim of the punishment that needs to be described is incapacitation. Incapacitation means that an offender deprives the ability to commit further crimes. It might be achieved by diverse methods. For instance, incapacitation by cutting off thieves’ hands, as it took place in ancient times, or by imprisoning offenders in order to separate them from the community. There are two types of incapacitation: selective and collective. Selective incapacitation is a social policy the aim of which is to isolate individuals deemed to be the most dangerous for the society. Moreover, Polinsky and Shavell state that reducing the punishment duration for those who committed crime first time can be considered as a policy of selective incapacitation. In contrast, collective incapacitation is imposing the same sentences on those who committed specific crimes. Visher states that it involves standardized guidelines for the sentencing of any offender for a specific offense. It also needs to be added that there are advantages and disadvantages of incapacitation. The main advantage of incapacitating offenders is that criminals cannot re-offend...
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