646 666 9601 [email protected]

The goal of deterrence in punishment is to deter future criminal action by making the consequences of crime unpleasant.

Individual Punishment and Deterrence: Criminal Law Fundamentals

Individual Disinhibition

The goal of deterrence in punishment is to deter future criminal action by making the consequences of crime unpleasant. While it resembles punishment in some ways, deterrence is an aim with quantifiable benefit and seems to have distinct beginnings than vengeance. If deterrence attempts to hurt the criminal offender, it is largely to impress upon him or her the attractiveness of a criminal life over a law-abiding living. Individual and global deterrence are the two types of deterrence recognised in criminology.

Individual deterrence attempts to persuade the offender that repeating his or her crime – or any crime, for that matter – is not worth the risk of receiving the same penalty, much alone a worse one. Legislators and judges carefully consider the inconvenience, discomfort, humiliation, and agony of penalties in order to fit the crime and, maybe more crucially in this instance, the culprit. Even if two individuals commit the same crime, they may need dramatically different degrees of harshness in their sentences to discourage future offenders. It’s evident that an offender’s punishment shouldn’t be too mild, or else it won’t prevent future crime. However, it is equally critical not to impose excessively harsh punishments, since punishment may fail to discourage and may potentially create more damage than good.

The Function of Rehabilitation

While deterrence and punishment may work well together, it has the potential to interfere with recovery. A sentence should be unpleasant enough to make individuals wish to avoid repeating the experience, but issues might occur when punishment is so harsh that true rehabilitation becomes impossible. It’s a tough balance to achieve, and failure might result in hardened criminals where there were previously merely criminal offenders.

Excessive penalties, long imprisonment, terrible jail conditions, and severe treatment by guards, for example, may all function as deterrents. However, these conditions have the potential to encourage people to see themselves as something separate from and opposed to the society that is punishing them, something that society may even regard as less than human, rather than as citizens whose actions have incurred a debt to society that must be repaid before they are allowed to rejoin. The latter viewpoint has the ability to promote reformation. The former is a criminal’s thinking. Rehabilitation might be said to have failed as long as a person considers himself or herself to be a criminal at heart. Furthermore, criminals, in general, tend to commit crimes regardless of how harsh the sanctions are. If punishment creates criminals where none previously existed, it not only fails to dissuade but rather promotes crime.

Of course, this is hardly an argument in favour of removing discomfort from punishment. Imagine if jails were replaced with a cheerful, sunny treatment clinic funded by taxpayers, where burglers, rapists, and murderers are counselled and encouraged to consider themselves potentially valuable members of society. Who would want to do that? However, it is critical to recognise the complexity and paradoxes inherent in our society’s efforts to properly combat criminal behaviour.