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How should we punish offenders?

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  1. Introduction.
  2. A common justification for offender punishment.
  3. Insight into the psychological aspects of offender punishment.
  4. The utilitarian theory.
  5. Arguments of Auld (1986) and Burr (1987).
  6. The severity of punishment model.
  7. The retribution theory.
  8. The deterrence theory models.
  9. Conclusion.

Criminological debate has propounded polarised theorem as to the most efficacious method to punish offenders within the criminal justice system. Whilst academics agree on the concept of ?punishment? as a necessary means they ?disagree on the underlying reason that makes punishment appropriate and a justified response to social norm violations.? (Carlsmith & Daley., 2002, p.284). However, from a moral perspective, the underlying question regarding punishment is clearly unanimous in asking ?what justifies the infliction of punishment on people?? (Carlsmith & Daley., 2002). One line of argument propounds that the punishment's primary purpose is to pay back harm caused as retribution for past crimes (Darley, Sanderson & LaMatnia, 1996; Kahneman, Schkade & Sunstein, 1998; Rossi, Waite, Bose & Berk, 1974); others claim that the central purpose is to prevent or reduce future crimes (Jeremy Bentham 1962); thereby implementing two diverging and broad justifications for the use of punishment of offenders.

[...] Why Do We Punish? Deterrence and Just Deserts as Motives for punishment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Volume 83, No.2, 284-299. J.M. Darley., K.M., Sanderson & P.S. LaMatnia., (1996). Community standards for defining attempt: Inconsistencies with the Model Penal Code. American Behavioural Scientist. Volume 39: pp.4050-420. Fowler, L. (2002). Drugs, Crime and the Drug Treatment and Testing Order. London NAO Gerald Gardiner., (1958). The Purposes of Criminal Punishment. Modern Law Review 117. Hammersley, R., & V Morrison (1987) ?Effects of polydrug use on the criminal activities of heroin users? British Journal of Addiction, Volume 82: pp.899-906. [...]


[...] Moreover, the deterrence theory models are clearly dogmatic in ignoring the interrelationship between causality in criminal behaviour and it is submitted that this should form the focus of future criminological development of the deterrence theory in context of offender punishment within the penal system. It is further submitted that until the interrelationship between causality and deterrence is evaluated further, any such general deterrence theory model based on social factors is inherently limited in efficacy. Similarly, causality in criminal conduct is an essential element in effective offender punishment under the retribution theory, which is further highlighted by Carlsmith and Daley's studies of the psychology of punishment. [...]


[...] For example, research suggests that the drugs cause crime model is inherently flawed particularly in relation to the use of poly drugs, which it is argued are linked more broadly with other complex social problems such as poverty, family breakdown and homelessness (Howard League 2000). As such, it has been suggested that: ?There is no persuasive evidence of any causal linkage between drug use and property crime for the vast majority? (Hough et al 2000). As such the government's focus on heroin and cocaine is flawed? (Hough et al 2000). [...]

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