Top-Rated Free Essay
Preview

Just Desserts

Better Essays
892 Words
Grammar
Grammar
Plagiarism
Plagiarism
Writing
Writing
Score
Score
Just Desserts
Just Deserts 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 (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011). This data clearly shows that even when the offender receives their “just deserts” it fails to deter them from committing another crime. Perhaps it is better to determine the proper punishment not only according to the crime but also the person who committed the crime.
Although there are many arguments against the effectiveness of the just deserts doctrine this does not mean that in any way it should be abandoned. If a person commits a crime, especially one that is heinous in nature, they should definitely receive a punishment that fits the crime. We must consider that for many crimes this doctrine is appropriate. For instance, just deserts bring about a sense of equality or fairness to the sentencing aspect of criminal justice. Many states base their sentencing guidelines primarily on the just deserts sentencing theory (Frase, 1997). With this being said it would be extremely hard to argue that the just deserts theory should be completely left in the dust.
There are pros and cons when considering this theory as there are with any theory. I strongly believe that there are aspects of the just desert theory that need to remain unchanged. However, I also believe that we are approaching a new modern time where doctrines that have been used throughout history need to be revised. We now have more understanding of the circumstances that surround some crimes. I feel that there is a need to ensure that the punishment does fit the crime that was committed. It is also my belief that every case is different and some factors need to be considered.
Perhaps it would be more effective to reinvent or even combine past, present, and future theories into a “hybrid” theory. By doing this we can accomplish the many goals set out by the criminal justice system. I feel that offenders need not only punishment but also rehabilitation in many cases in order to decrease the rate of recidivism. We must look at the big picture rather than just a small section. Our prisons are continually being overcrowded and often times by offenders that no longer pose a threat to society. Also, there are cases of criminals receiving a punishment that does not fit the crime. So, by reinventing the just desert theory and shaping it into a more modern theory that is a better fit for our time it may be possible to make sentencing practices more effective.

References
Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2011). Recidivism rates of prisoners. Retrieved from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=datool&surl=/recidivism/index.cfm#
Frase, R. S. (1997). Sentencing principles in theory and practice. Crime and Justice. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1147577
Haist, M. (2009). Deterrence in a sea of "just deserts": are utilitarian goals achievable in a world of limiting retributivism? Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 99(3), p. 789-821.
Just Desserts. (n.d.) West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. (2008). Retrieved January 25 2013 from http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Just+Desserts
McKee, A. J. (2007). Justice. Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. doi:10.4135/9781412950664
Siegel, L. J. (2012). Criminology (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.
Sullivan, L. E. (2007). Just desert. Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. doi:10.4135/9781412950664
Wald, P. M. (2001). Why focus on women offenders? Criminal Justice Magazine, 16(1). Retrieved from http://www.americanbar.org/publications/criminal_justice_magazine_home/crimjust_cjmag_16_1_wald.html

References: Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2011). Recidivism rates of prisoners. Retrieved from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=datool&surl=/recidivism/index.cfm# Frase, R. S. (1997). Sentencing principles in theory and practice. Crime and Justice. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1147577 Haist, M. (2009). Deterrence in a sea of "just deserts": are utilitarian goals achievable in a world of limiting retributivism? Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 99(3), p. 789-821. Just Desserts. (n.d.) West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. (2008). Retrieved January 25 2013 from http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Just+Desserts McKee, A. J. (2007). Justice. Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. doi:10.4135/9781412950664 Siegel, L. J. (2012). Criminology (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth. Sullivan, L. E. (2007). Just desert. Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. doi:10.4135/9781412950664 Wald, P. M. (2001). Why focus on women offenders? Criminal Justice Magazine, 16(1). Retrieved from http://www.americanbar.org/publications/criminal_justice_magazine_home/crimjust_cjmag_16_1_wald.html

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    Gebelein, R. S. (2000, 05). Sentencing and Correctiions: Issues for the 21st Century. Retrieved from U.S. Dept Of Justice: www.ncjrs.gov…

    • 1575 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Sentencing Paper

    • 2161 Words
    • 9 Pages

    5. Tonry, Michael, and Mary Lynch. 1996. "Intermediate Sanctions," In Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, Michael Tonry, editor. Chicago: University of Chicago Press: 20:99–144.…

    • 2161 Words
    • 9 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Crime and Justice Process

    • 1297 Words
    • 6 Pages

    Victims can pursue one or even a combination of three distinct goals. The first is too see to it that hard-core offenders who act as predators are punished, The second is to use the justice process as leverage to compel lawbreakers to undergo rehabilitative treatment. The third possible aim is to get the court to order convicts to make restitution for any expenses arising from injuries and losses. Punishment is what comes to most people’s minds first, when considering what justice entails. Throughout history, people have always punished one another. However, they may disagree about their reasons for subjecting a wrongdoer to pain and suffering. Punishment is usually justified on utilitarian grounds as a necessary evil. It is argued that punishing transgressors curbs future criminality in a number of ways. The offender who experiences unpleasant consequences learns a lesson and is discouraged from breaking the law again, assuming that the logic of specific deterrence is sound. Making an example of a convicted criminal also serves as a warning to would be offenders contemplating the same act, provided that the doctrine of general deterrence really works.…

    • 1297 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    In a contemporary society where crime takes place we expect the state authority to dispense justice in the form of punishment to maintain social solidarity. There are many forms of punishment that can be given to an offender, each with their own functions for the offender and society itself.…

    • 1349 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Heath-Thornton, Debra. "Restorative Justice." Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. 2002. SAGE Publications. 21 Mar. 2011. <http://www.sage-ereference.com/crimepunishment/Article_n360.html>.…

    • 1267 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Better Essays

    Indeterminate Sentencing

    • 903 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Several different objectives exist in sentencing, including “deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation and retribution” (2012). Retribution is a sentencing objective that has proven to be the most effective in…

    • 903 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Best Essays

    Berger, R., Free, M., Searles, P. (2009). Crime, Justice, and Society: An Introduction to Criminology. Pennsylvania State University: Lynne Rienner Publishers. p331.…

    • 2514 Words
    • 11 Pages
    Best Essays
  • Good Essays

    Capital Punishment

    • 1406 Words
    • 6 Pages

    In Martin Perlmutter's essay "Desert and Capital Punishment," he attempts to illustrate that social utility is a poor method of evaluating the legitimacy of it. Perlmutter claims that a punishment must be "backward looking," meaning that it is based on a past wrongdoing. A utilitarian justification of capital punishment strays from the definition of the term "punishment" because it is "forward looking." An argument for social utility maintains that the death penalty should result in a greater good and the consequences must outweigh the harm, thereby increasing overall happiness in the world. Perlmutter recognizes the three potential benefits of a punishment as the rehabilitation of an offender, protection for other possible victims, and deterring other people from committing the same crime. The death penalty…

    • 1406 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    The most dramatic developments in the Criminal Justice system during the late 20th Century were the revolution of the sentencing system. Prior to the sentencing reforms of 1984, most of the 20th century federal sentencing was largely based on rehabilitative model where sentencing was indeterminate. By the 1970s, the traditional sentencing system came under increasing attack as public interest in the criminal justice system prompted “crime research boom time” (Nagel, 1990; Wilkins, 1987). The concerns manifested to a policy reform focusing on retribution, deterrence and incapacitation as means of getting tough on crime and.…

    • 354 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    In this paper, we have defined state and federal objectives of punishment. We have also discussed the overall effects sentencing has on the corrections system. Lastly, we have defined determinate and indeterminate sentencing and which model I prefer. Our corrections system is under constant strain and always evolving. We as a society are losing the battle against the criminal element within our ranks. We glamorize crime, and our young generation is manipulated to believe this is the norm. We need to take back our communities and begin to change this trend, or we will lose our communities…

    • 1412 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    According to James Rachels, he concluded the criminal justice system should be designed along the lines of retributivism, in much the way it currently is. Rachels comes to the conclusion the overall goal of punishment should be retributivism by examining the four requirements necessary for punishment. The four requirements for punishment are guilt, equal treatment, proportionality, and excuses. These requirements mean only the guilty get punished, each criminal who commits the same crime gets roughly the same punishment, the punishment is proportionate to the crime, and if provided a legit excuse, then no punishment is given. Rachels also argues that deterrence and rehabilitation do not meet the requirements, but retributivism does.…

    • 581 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    In his book” Should we Execute Those Who Deserve to Die?” Stephen Nathanson defines what he calls “argument from desert” the reasoning that “murderers deserve to die and therefore that the state ought to execute them”. He also proposes two statements, and explains that if one of the two statements could be established, then the argument from desert fails (Nathanson, 1987). In my essay, I will assess and establish one of the statements that Nathanson proposes to invalidate the argument from desert.…

    • 1328 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    Just Dessert

    • 814 Words
    • 4 Pages

    When researching just dessert I found three particular arguments in favor of the just dessert theory. The first argument is that the punishment should be the same for all offenders based on the crime they committed. This is considered to be fair and justified punishment because it is deserving of the crime committed. The second argument supports that just dessert encompasses fair treatment both to the vulnerable in society and victims rather than just the offenders. This allows the victims of crimes to know what type of justice they can expect. And finally the third argument believes that the just desert theory is the best way to explain the death penalty for murder because if an offender takes a life they would understand and expect that their punishment would be a sentence of death.…

    • 814 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    Richard Brandt

    • 1471 Words
    • 6 Pages

    Chapter two in our book Philosophical Perspectives on Punishment covers different philosopher’s views on Rule Utilitarianism and how it is applied to misconduct and unlawful acts. In Richard Brandt’s discussion he raises three questions that should be addressed when identifying our American system of punishment. What is justifiable punishment for a criminals past actions? What are good principles of punishment? What defenses should be used as good excuses to keep someone from being punished?…

    • 1471 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    “This failure of the theory to provide a basis for supporting the death penalty reveals an important gap in proportional retributivism. It shows that while the theory is general in scope, it does not yield any specific recommendations regarding punishment. It tells us that armed robbery should be punished more severely than embezzling and less severely than murder, but it does not tell us how much to punish any of these,” (Nathanson, An Eye for an Eye). By not giving us specific punishments for specific actions, but continuing on to say that the highest punishment allowed to be given is a life sentence in prison, is enough to completely dismisses the death penalty and also make itself almost unusable due to lack of clarity.…

    • 124 Words
    • 1 Page
    Good Essays