The Punishment

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For minor offenses, punishment may take the form of the offender "righting the wrong", or making restitution to the victim. Community service or compensation orders are examples of this sort of penalty. Punishment can be explained by positive prevention theory to use the criminal justice system to teach people what are the social norms for what is correct, and acts as a reinforcement.

Punishment can serve as a means for society to publicly express denunciation of an action as being criminal. Besides educating people regarding what is not acceptable behavior, it serves the dual function of preventing vigilante justice by acknowledging public anger, while concurrently deterring future criminal activity by stigmatizing the offender. This is sometimes called the "Expressive Theory" of denunciation. Some critics of the education and denunciation model cite evolutionary problems with the notion that a feeling for punishment as a social signal system evolved if punishment was not effective.

The critics argue that some individuals spending time and energy and taking risks in punishing others, and the possible loss of the punished group members, would have been selected against if punishment served no function other than signals that could evolve to work by less risky means.

A unified theory of punishment brings together multiple penal purposes—such as retribution, deterrence and rehabilitation—in a single, coherent framework. Instead of punishment requiring we choose between them, unified theorists argue that they work together as part of some wider goal such as the protection of rights. Some people think that punishment as a whole is unhelpful and even harmful to the people that it is used against.

Critics argue that punishment is simply revenge.


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We ought not to impose such harm on anyone unless we have a very good reason for doing so. This remark may seem trivially true, but the history of humankind is littered with examples of the deliberate infliction of harm by well-intentioned persons in the vain pursuit of ends which that harm did not further, or in the successful pursuit of questionable ends.

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These benefactors of humanity sacrificed their fellows to appease mythical gods and tortured them to save their souls from a mythical hell, broke and bound the feet of children to promote their eventual marriageability, beat slow schoolchildren to promote learning and respect for teachers, subjected the sick to leeches to rid them of excess blood, and put suspects to the rack and the thumbscrew in the service of truth. They schooled themselves to feel no pity—to renounce human compassion in the service of a higher end. The deliberate doing of harm in the mistaken belief that it promotes some greater good is the essence of tragedy.

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We would do well to ask whether the goods we seek in harming offenders are worthwhile, and whether the means we choose will indeed secure them. Golash also writes about imprisonment :. Imprisonment means, at minimum, the loss of liberty and autonomy, as well as many material comforts, personal security, and access to heterosexual relations.

But these are only the minimum harms, suffered by the least vulnerable inmates in the best-run prisons. Most prisons are run badly, and in some, conditions are more squalid than in the worst of slums. In the District of Columbia jail, for example, inmates must wash their clothes and sheets in cell toilets because the laundry machines are broken.

Vermin and insects infest the building, in which air vents are clogged with decades' accumulation of dust and grime. But even inmates in prisons where conditions are sanitary must still face the numbing boredom and emptiness of prison life—a vast desert of wasted days in which little in the way of meaningful activity is possible. There are critics of punishment who argue that punishment aimed at intentional actions forces people to suppress their ability to act on intent.

Advocates of this viewpoint argue that such suppression of intention causes the harmful behaviors to remain, making punishment counterproductive. These people suggest that the ability to make intentional choices should instead be treasured as a source of possibilities of betterment, citing that complex cognition would have been an evolutionarily useless waste of energy if it led to justifications of fixed actions and no change as simple inability to understand arguments would have been the most thrifty protection from being misled by them if arguments were for social manipulation, and reject condemnation of people who intentionally did bad things.

However, punishment does not necessarily cause an employee to demonstrate a desirable behavior. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Punishment disambiguation. Types of crime. Chicago school Classical school Conflict criminology Critical criminology Environmental criminology Feminist school Integrative criminology Italian school Left realism Marxist criminology Neo-classical school Positivist school Postmodernist school Right realism. Index Journals Organizations People. Main article: Punishment psychology.

Main articles: Retributive justice and Eye for an eye. See also: Felony and Misdemeanor. See also: Criminal justice. Main article: Rehabilitation penology. Main article: Retributive justice. Main article: Restorative justice.

The mosaic of the punishment of Dirke

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved The search for a precise definition of punishment that exercised some philosophers for discussion and references see Scheid is likely to prove futile: but we can say that legal punishment involves the imposition of something that is intended to be burdensome or painful, on a supposed offender for a supposed crime, by a person or body who claims the authority to do so. McAnany, Patrick D.

August Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. Punishment describes the imposition by some authority of a deprivation—usually painful—on a person who has violated a law, rule, or other norm. When the violation is of the criminal law of society there is a formal process of accusation and proof followed by imposition of a sentence by a designated official, usually a judge. Informally, any organized group—most typically the family, in rearing children—may punish perceived wrongdoers.

Punishment under law The classical formulation, conspicuous in Hobbes, for example, defines punishment by reference to imposing pain rather than to deprivations. This definition, although imperfect because of its brevity, does allow us to bring out several essential points. British Journal of Educational Studies. Otherwise, it would be impossible to distinguish 'punishment' from 'revenge'.

People in authority can, of course, inflict pain on people at whim. But this would be called 'spite' unless it were inflicted as a consequence of a breach of rules on the part of the sufferer. In fact, the standard means of execution was not poison but a form of bloodless crucifixion in which the convict was probably fastened to a board with iron collars around wrists, ankles, and neck, and the collar around the neck was tightened to strangle the wrongdoer.

Socrates too would probably have suffered such a crucifixion had he not had wealthy friends. From the end of the 5th century , the Athenians seem to have been willing to let wrongdoers convicted to death use hemlock to commit suicide in advance of their execution provided they could afford to pay for the dose. It was expensive—12 dr.

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Yet even if the bloodless crucifixion was not lenient, it did have an element of moderation. Generals on the battlefield had the authority to execute citizens and this they did with a swift blow of the sword. The purpose of the unusual crucifixion and its elaborate effort to avoid blood seems to have been to distinguish judicial punishments, and penalties in the peaceful city, from the violence of the battlefield. On some level, the bloodless crucifixion protected the body of the citizen from abuse even in death.

Demosthenes Dem. Antiphon Antiph. In contrast, the Athenians were indeed lenient in their willingness to let convicts on death row escape prison and flee into exile. Even convicted murderers, who were being held in prison while they awaited execution, were expected to make a jail break and flee the land Plato Crit. And the expectation that wrong-doers would simply take themselves into exile was such that a defendant in a murder trial was given the chance, after his first speech in the trial, to leave the country if he wanted Dem.

But exiles could also re-establish themselves in another city and even, in some cases, gain citizenship in their new homes. The Athenian preference for exile over execution is the best evidence of their desire to use punishment to cure all parties to the wrongdoing. In departing the community, the wrongdoer freed the victim and the prosecutor of the anger, and put an end to the social disruption plaguing the city but he also himself gained the chance to start a new life in a context where he would not be the focus of anger and social conflict. Peace in the community was restored and the wrongdoer was also restored to life.

Plot on a Map America. The single greatest difference between ancient and modern penalties is, then, the prominence of exile in the former context and of imprisonment in the latter. The Athenians did use imprisonment as a penalty but this developed out of the custom of imprisoning wrongdoers who were unable to pay their fines.

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Impoverished Athenians who could not pay their fines ended up imprisoned for indefinite periods of time, and over time the city seems to have developed means whereby such citizens could propose set time limits for their imprisonment, to replace their fines. But imprisonment was never one of the penalties mandated by law. Indeed, the modern rise of imprisonment as the basic sentence mandated by law coincides neatly with the near total disappearance of exile in the 19th century.

Exile was still in use in colonial America and, of course, modern Australia has its roots in serving as a penal colony for Britain.

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But the modern prison now serves the function formerly served by exile: it allows the community to forget, almost entirely, about particular wrongdoers and so restores a sense of order to the community. Yet in the transition from a world that relied heavily on exile to one that relies most of all on incarceration, something valuable has been lost. Although prisons may help communities forget about particular wrongdoers who disappear into them, they have not achieved the second function of exile, which was to restore the wrongdoers also, allowing them to enter a new community in contexts in which they would have a new chance at life.

For all this emphasis on the Athenian use of penalties like exile that allowed them to forget all about the wrongdoer, it is important to remember that in other cases the Athenians preferred to memorialize punishments for eternity. As we have seen, the procedure of the graphe , and the inscription that would follow it, were especially used for such memorialization. In general, it placed heavy emphasis on memorializing punishments in those contexts where the wrongdoing had an especially political significance treason, temple-robbery, impiety, etc.

In contrast, when the wrongdoing primarily concerned particular individuals and their personal conflicts, the city was willing to let it go. Moments of anger gave the Athenians reason to punish. Acting out of anger, they wished to cure themselves, the victim and the wrongdoer of the trouble and unease provoked by the wrongdoing and its emotional aftereffects.

In punishing, they distinguished between those wrongs that were trivial enough for a single magistrate to restore the peace and those that required the work of the community. In respect to those more significant disruptions of the peace, they again made a crucial distinction, this time between private suits in which participants were to be given the chance to cultivate their skills at justice, at venting and then restraining their emotion, and public suits in which the community was given a chance to reflect on its norms publicly and to issue a decision that would be dramatically recorded in public memory.

The Athenians thus employed an idea of punishment that focused primarily on a consistent recognition of the need to restore communal peace in face of a disruption. Anger led not to retribution but to restoration. Finally, the Athenian focus on anger reveals two things about punishment. First, punishment arises simply from the desires of the punishers, which is to say, from the desires of the community. Questions of how to punish therefore involve us in asking who we want to be and what our relations to our desires are as those are expressed by anger.

The festival involved an especially violent ritual. It was said that the Athenians had once killed a Cretan man named Androgeos and had afterwards repented of their own act of wrong-doing. Such a scapegoat was called a pharmakos. Punishment forces a community into facing the idea that acts of violence are expected to cure a community that otherwise disavows acts of violence.

The second feature of punishment revealed by the ritual requires that we know a bit more about it. The festival of Thargelia marked the end of the year, and the day after saw a festival marking the beginning of the new. The Athenians moved through the year knowing that they would conclude the year with a mock stoning, in which they would mimic a communal act of passion and admit to the communal desire to inflict harm. This they would do in order to cure themselves.

The festival was an admission that the origin of punishment in anger implicates all citizens in a set of disordered relationships, which must be restored but which can be restored only by a process that imposes itself on different citizens in different ways and to different degrees. Read about the evidence Sophocles Soph. Punishment may originate in anger, but one need not satisfy it in order to resolve it and restore peace.

Allen, D. The World of Prometheus : the politics of punishing in democratic Athens. Princeton University Press. Hunter, V. Policing Athens. Keuls, E. Lloyd-Jones, H.