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Theories of Punishment

What Is Punishment?

Punishment refers to the infliction of penalty, castigation by the judicial arm of the state. The purpose of punishment is not only to cause physical pain to the wrongdoer but also to realize the gravity of the offence he has committed and to repent for the same. A person is said to have been punished when some sort of pain is inflicted upon him.

Theories of Punishment

  1. Deterrent:

    Punishment is primarily said to be deterrent when its object is to show the futility of crime and to teach the wrongdoer. According to this theory, the object of punishment is to show that crime is never profitable to the offender. The idea behind this punishment is to inflict exemplary sentence on the offender. It is just to create fear in the minds of the offender so that they think thrice before committing any wrongful act. It is a game of fear psychology only to deter the offender from committing crime. However, this theory of punishment fails to achieve its goal when it comes to hard-core criminals because they have no fear of punishment.
  2. Preventive Theory:

    If on one end the aim of deterrent theory is to create fear and to put an end to the crime, on the other end is the preventive theory which aims at preventing crime by disabling the criminal, for example, by inflicting death penalty on the criminal. Or by confining him in prison.

    Preventive mode of punishment works in three ways:

    a. By inspiring all prospective wrong-doers with the fear of punishment.
    b. By disabling the wrong-doer from committing any crime.
    c. By transforming the offender by way of rehabilitation or by the process of transformation and reformation so that the crime is not committed again.
  3. Reformative Theory

    According to this theory, a crime is usually committed as the result of conflict between the character and motive of the criminal. It may be taken into consideration that one may commit a crime either because the temptation of the motive is stronger or because the restraint imposed by the character is weaker. Reformative theory considers punishment to be curative more than to be deterrent. According to this theory, crime is like a disease which cannot be cured by killing rather than curing it with the medicine with the help of process of reformation.
  4. Retributive Theory

    Basically retribution means that the wrongdoer pays for his wrongdoing. However, state considers it necessary to inflict pain upon the wrongdoer in order to prevent vengeance. According to this theory, an evil should be returned for evil and an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth which is deemed to be rule of natural justice. The retributive theory ignores the causes of the crime, and it does not strike to the removal of the causes. It is quite possible that the criminal is as much a victim of circumstances as the victim himself might have been. This theory ignores that if the vengeance is the spirit of punishment, violence will be a way of prison life.
Written by: Adv.Shubham Mongia

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