Capital Punishment

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The Purpose of Capital Punishment

Punishment of criminals is aimed at achieving major purposes; retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, restoration, and incapacitation. Criminal in prison will not be able to commit acts of crime and at the same time an executed felon cannot commit crime ever again. Deterrence prevents or deters people from committing criminal acts (Lippman, 2007).

Rehabilitation intends to change the felon to a better citizen afterwards restitution involves requiring a felon to take some actions so as to make the felon have status quo ante. Because the felon had done harm to the society, the society is entitled to inflict harm in return (Lippman, 2007).

Capital punishment is clearly satisfied through incapacitation. This same applies to the life imprisonment without parole. There is a tiny likelihood that the felon can escape and kill again. Criminals tend to have anger-control issue, which then harbors the belief that they won’t he caught. What if the felon believed he will be captured and incarcerated for life, how likely is he to commit crime?

Retributive system must punish serious crimes harshly than minor one, but all in all retributivists differ on how harsh or soft the system can be. Punishment is backward-looking and crimes are punished according to their severity.

The level of severity is determined by the amount of harm or moral imbalance the crime caused (Lippman, 2007).

We have two “flavors” of retributive justice. The classical of punishment is proportional to the unfair advantage gained by the wrongdoer. A more recent version replaces the former that the amount of punishment should be proportional to the amount of unfair advantage which the wrongdoer gains. Some theories show that punishment is self-contradictory (Samaha, 2005).

Retributive punishment is considered unethical that “two wrongs do not make a right”. Most of the jurisdictions following retributive philosophy in the United States follow a set for a crime within a range set by the traffic.

Under certain circumstances, judges do not have enough discretion which can allow for some mitigating factors. With fines, the financial position of the offender is not considered which leads to situations where the unemployed and millionaire can be made to pay the same fine (Lippman, 2007).

During cold war in United States, the policy of deterrence under went significant variations. The ideology of containment characterized the early stages of the cold war. While the army was in a deal of the break up of the Soviet Union and the spread of nuclear technology to the other nations the concept of deterrence took a broader Multinational dimension. There are criticisms towards the deterrence theory for its assumptions about opponent rationales. To start with, it is argued that psychopathic opponents may not get deterred by either forms of deterrence (Lippman, 2007).

Secondly, misunderstandings may lead to escalating mutual perceptions of threat and the arms race which can elevate the risk of an actual war. Finally a military build up increases the country’s risk of budget deficits and the restrictions on the side of civil liberties and the creation of a military industrial complex (Samaha, 2005).

A number of nuanced criticisms of “traditional” deterrence have occurred. One had an idea that the theory assumed that both sides had common rational peaceful goals.

            In a survey, analysis of the community understanding of sentencing, it showed that about 80% thought that rehabilitation was more important than punishment when sentencing the offenders. Strong community sentences are effective punishment and also a means of reform and this can demonstrates to the public what really happens in real life cases and the outcome of the sentence (Lippman, 2007).

The purpose of the prison is to punish and reform offenders as well as protecting the public from the most serious, persistent and dangerous offenders. The government always ensures that there are places for the offenders. It’s not necessarily the best route for the less serious offenders who may be striped off their jobs, accommodation and even their family ties after a period of imprisonment. Engaging the offenders in community services/sentences is considered more effective in the mitigation of re-offending than putting the offender in a prison for a short spell (Samaha, 2005).

 People are aware of some element of community sentences but not that it can involve intensive rehabilitation as well as unpaid work which keep the criminals from committing further offences. Change is needed that can make sentences visible and people can understand by judging for themselves. One may think that punishment is better than rehabilitation. This is because the criminal have done wrong and does not deserve the privilege to live in the community with other law abiding citizens. To think like that, one has not put a lot of thoughts because rehabilitation is based upon therapeutic or in other words the psychological view of humans. Rehabilitation is seen to be perfect with the democratic view because it values life of each person and the government reintegrates back into the society along with some punishment for his or her crime. This then implies that we should comply with correctional institutions. Inflicting pain against the prisoner is not perfect because it only increases hate, the same way as warehousing the criminal (Samaha, 2005).

Rehabilitation is beneficial to an inmate because it teaches the criminal that they are doing wrong and needs to fix it. It will help the person live as safe and not behind the bars. Punishment is not meant for every one and many times rehabilitation is the better choice. In relation to restoration justice, the issue of punishment constitutes a significant debate. When addressing the similarities and differences between the punishment and restoration, the criminal justice system should be deeply and comprehensively restorative as possible even if it allows for some coercive judicial intervention. Taking that perspective, restorative measures are not tantamount to punishment which will always contend for maximum restorative impact along with the judicial procedures (Samaha, 2005).

The mistaken leniency reflected by the victims of maliciousness of drunken men, cripples and children is held responsible for the inadequate punishment of offences committed by boys who throw stones at automobiles, rob flower gardens, break windows and riot in public conveyances disturbing the peace. As far as punishing children is concerned the court is a force and what is now needed is the restoration punishment for this class of offenders (Lippman, 2007).

            Crimes of hatred and prejudice ranging from lynching to cross burnings are a sad history of America. The term hate did not enter the nation’s vocabulary till 1980s when the hate group skinhead had launched a bias –related group. The perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership defined by racial group, sexual orientation, disability, gender, religion and even the political affiliation (Samaha, 2005).


Lippman, Matthew Ross (2007): Contemporary Criminal Law: Concepts, Cases, and Controversies; ISBN 141290580X, Sage Publications.

Samaha, Joel (2005): Criminal Justice; ISBN 0534645577, Thomson.

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