Reflection Paper on The aim of applying punishment

The aim of applying punishment

The aim of applying punishment is to ensure that the criminal realizes the magnitude of their offense. It is the role of the law to ensure that the offender repents and accepts the punishment given as a way to neutralize the crime committed. In the modern world, the kind of punishment that an offender receives depends on the offense nature. Several theories of punishment were established to help in explaining and supporting the various types of punishment, which the state uses to bring and maintain order within the society.

Theories of Punishment

The Deterrent Theory. The theory based on the futility of a crime is known as a Deterrent theory. It is intended to teach the offender and other people a lesson. The criminal justice system believes that if this method of punishment is applied, then it will prevent the criminal from conducting a similar crime again in future. Pain is used as a mode of punishment to formulate a sense of fear on the criminal and also other people with the intention of keeping them away from conducting the same type of crime. It acts as a warning to the public by setting the example of the offender. Nonetheless, several studies argue that this type of punishment is non-effective among hardened criminals who are accustomed to severe punishment.

The Retributive Theory. The other theory of punishment is retributive – meaning payback or re-compensation. In this case, the punishment of the offender is similar to the oppression which the victim suffered (Lawn 1). For instance, if the victim died, then the offender is put on a death sentence. It is some level of vengeance and not meant to act as a lesson to the offender or the society like the case of deterrent punishment. The Retributive theory ignores the primary cause of the crime hence it is not meant to eliminate it. However, there is no moral indignation in this type of punishment making it less effective in preventing crime.

The Preventive theory. Unlike the theories mentioned above, this particular theory aims at preventing the crime, rather than retaliating it. It holds the belief that sending a criminal behind bars is a way to prevent him from doing any other crime, and it, in turn, protects the society from any anti-social elements. Though this theory aims to prevent any crime in the future, the techniques it uses are often crude. Moreover, the use harsh techniques are common among all the theories mentioned above. Instead of changing the criminal into a right person, such techniques can make him more violent. However, the last theory, being more humane considers this aspect.

The Reformative Theory. The Reformative theory is different from the Retributive and Deterrent theories in regards to the mode of punishment applied. The theory considers crime to be a result of motive and conflict between the offender and the victim. An individual may end up committing a crime because of temptation, which is a stronger motive. In this regard, the crime is condemned, and not the offender. This theory aims to utilize psychological, social, physical, and economic methods to transform a criminal’s mind (Lawn 1). Rather than creating fear to deter crime or vengeance to punish an individual, the Reformative theory seeks for a means to reinstate the offender into the society by impacting them with the right skills to become responsible members of the social world. The theory is similar to the Compensation theory, whose objective is to deter the offender while compensating the victim. In this case, the criminal is expected to repent, atone, and compensate for the crimes committed before reinstatement into the society. Unlike the Retributive and Deterrent theories that adopt severe punishment to teach the criminal and the society a lesson to prevent them from reoffending, the Reformative theory focuses on the victim. The Compensation theory views crime to be contributed by economic motives.

Education Programs in Prison

Educational programs have been found useful in rehabilitating inmates. The programs help in educating and equipping the inmates with the right skills, which has a direct impact on the reduction of crime. Some of the factors that lead an individual back into crime after being released from prison include lack of right education or skills. However, through the educational programs, the criminals acquire both educational and social skills, which will help them to function effectively in the society when released. Therefore, the educational programs act as rehabilitation in deterring inmates from committing reoffending. Some of the components involved in developing these programs include funding educational tools, such as books and pens among others. In other technical programs, equipment such as a laboratory may be required for the inmates to benefit from them.

Constraints and Benefits

The benefits of having these components include that the program is easy to articulate while the inmates do not have to struggle to acquire the necessary knowledge. However, there are several constraints to these educational programs that sometimes makes them fail or ineffective, especially to the inmates. The costs of the educational programs are high based on the number of inmates who have to go through them (Esperian 327). Sometimes, the government cannot adequately support the programs, especially if the prison department lacks fund. Consequently, some prisons have failed to establish these educational programs. The other constraints are the mental and physical barriers of the inmates. Some inmates are not willing to take part in the programs because of the mental issues regarding the educational program, while others cannot attend the classes because of physical pain. Interruptions because of cleanups during the programs have also been found to be a significant constraint to their success.


Works Cited

Esperian, John. “The Effect of Prison Education Programs on Recidivism.” Journal of Correctional Education, vol. 61, no. 4, 2010, pp. 316-334. Retrieved from

Lawn. “Theories of Punishment.” Accessed 17 Sep. 2014.