The criminal system has four justifications for punishment; they are known as Retribution, Deterrence, Rehabilitation, and Social Protection. Macionis has defined them as below:
- Retribution is an act of moral vengeance by which society makes the offender suffer as much as the suffering caused by the crime.
- Deterrence is the attempt to discourage criminality through the use of punishment.
- Rehabilitation is a program for reforming the offender to prevent later offenses.
- Social Protection is rendering an offender incapable of further offenses temporarily by imprisonment or permanently by execution.
In order to find out which type of punishment justification deters the crime most effectively, the study makes a deep investigation of each method in the following section.
Retribution is the oldest type of punishment and refers to the philosophy used in old testament times. It picks the meaning of words like “an eye for an eye” and pushes revenge further. This type of punishment justification assumes that crime is an offense created not only against society but also against God and the person who commits the crime should experience the consequences. This type also believes that crime upsets the natural order of society as a whole and hence is to be eradicated by punishment. Also, retribution believes the level of punishment should be equal to the level of crime. This type stresses only the eradication of crime, but nothing about prevention by making the offender a better member of society.
Deterrence is the next emerged type of punishment justification that came into existence during the eighteenth century. This type of justification makes a comparison of the situation without crime and with crime assuming that people will choose the benefits. This type of justification believes that society will consider the benefits that a noncrime scenario offers over the consequences of crime. This type of punishment justification cautions society of the possible consequences. Eg: If people try to increase their speed limit in a rush to avoid getting late to their destination, a fine ticket would help decrease the accidental rates, by acknowledging the benefit of getting late by going slow than paying the fine. Deterrence also discourages harsher punishments by putting the criminals to fewer intensity punishments like imprisonment than the death sentence to scare them to prevent further offenses.
Rehabilitation is the third form of punishment justification that evolved during the nineteenth century. This type of punishment justification was based on the identification of relationships between the criminals and their environments. This practice believes that when a subject is controlled by his/her environment in the upbringing they conform themselves to that particular societal norms only. So this type of punishment includes reformation activities for the criminals. So during the execution of punishment, the offenders will be sent to reformatories or reformation camps and houses of corrections. Also, the process sometimes involves setting up the military-style of boot camps, assuming that hard work and military-style disciplinary patterns will replace the old criminal nature in the offenders.
Social protection is the fourth form of the justification for punishment and came about as a protective effort to protect society from violent criminals. This favors society by making the offender incapable of further offenses until a certain limited time by imprisonment or permanently by execution. This option of punishment has no choice for changing the criminal from their effort as it is the case of rehabilitation. All it has to do is make capture the criminals. With this form of punishment justification in the nineteenth century, the imprisoned criminal rate has increased in the United States in recent years. This form administers strict laws and heavy sanctions for imprisonment. Sometimes this pattern of justification can be assumed by the reformers as offenders being protected in the prison when they are not accepted by the society. There is a perceivable variance between the citizens and the criminals through this type.
There is no clear evidence in the above report, to support any type as the most effective type in deterring crime in society. Retribution cannot help much to deter crime, but can only push it further. Deterrence can up to some extent prevent the crime, but may not be sufficient to clear it ultimately. However, rehabilitation makes the offenders able to flow into the civilian stream by bringing the reformation. The reformation will reduce the level of criminal instinct and reduces the crime levels for a long duration.