Question #1 – Compare and contrast the assumptions associated with the philosophies of deterrence and rehabilitation.

Deterrence theory states that the fear of punishment and harsh consequences eliminates or reduces undesirable behavior. According to this theory, people will most probably avoid crime if the punishment is swift, certain and severe, hence relying in certain assumptions. The idea that people know what the penalties for a crime are, have great control over their actions, and they think things through before acting shows that their behavior is controlled by logic and not emotions.

Rehabilitation in turn is where the state tries to punish the offender by helping them become a non-criminal and a productive member of society. It is based on the assumption that offender managers are like clinicians. This is because the responsibility to manage offenders is put in the hands of criminal justice professionals. Rehabilitation creates lower system cost in comparison to deterrence (Lucken, .2017)

Deterrence seeks to prevent crime by scaring and frightening the defendant or the public while rehabilitation seeks to prevent crime by altering a defendant’s behavior (Pickett, 2016). Assumptions about deterrence are mostly based on instilling fear and very little focus on the moral impact or character of the defendant. The assumption that someone would be frightened since they already know the repercussions of their actions is also wrong. This is because some crimes are committed on impulse and the majority of criminals act out of passion or emotions. Rehabilitation is mostly based on one’s character and has great emphasis on morals. The assumptions that offender managers are also clinician’s is not right since they may not have the appropriate skills or resources needed to correct the offender. Both assumptions of deterrence and rehabilitation are not fully correct since offenders who have undergone these correction methods have returned to crimes at a very high rate.

Pickett, J. T., & Roche, S. P. (2016). Arrested development: Misguided directions in deterrence theory and policy. Criminology & Public Policy15(3), 727-751.

Lucken, K., 2017. Rethinking Punishment : Challenging Conventions In Research And Policy. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Question #2 – Compare and contrast the assumptions associated with the philosophies of retribution and incapacitation.

Incapacitation philosophy is where criminals are locked up away from the rest of the society. This way, they are not able to harm other citizens. The problem is that it only works when the offender is locked up. Retribution philosophy is basically fitting the punishment to the offense. It means giving offenders the punishment they deserve and is also known as the doctrine of proportionality. Incapacitation strategy is based on the assumption that confining an offender for a particular period of time will result in the decrease in related crimes similar to that he committed. Another assumption is that the rate of offending committed by a criminal is likely to increase over time hence incapacitation would inhibit increase in crimes.

Retribution is based on the assumption of proportionality of the punishment. This is to mean that the punishment should commemorate the moral gravity of the offense (Caruso, 2020). These assumptions are based on ensuring that the offender receives punishment for their crime whether it’s through locking up or other means of punishment. The proportionality of the punishment in retribution may however be problematic. This is because there could be conflicting opinions of what appropriate punishment for a certain crime would be among the members of society or a certain community. Assumptions in retribution and incapacitation are similar in that both are expected to eliminate crime. In retribution it is assumed that future crimes are prevented by removing desire for personal avengement against the defendant while in incapacitation it is assumed that future crimes are prevented by putting away an offender.

Caruso, G. D. (2020). Justice without retribution: An epistemic argument against retributive criminal punishment. Neuroethics13(1), 13-28.

Question #3 – Discuss the criticisms associated with each of the 4 philosophies.  Then discuss which philosophy or rather purpose/justification of punishment you believe is superior and why?

Critics of deterrence argue that the high recidivism rates are proof that it doesn’t work. This means that those who are punished by criminal justice system have relapse into another crime at a very high rate. It is also argued that psychotic and suicidal individuals may not be deterred by any form of deterrence. Some criticisms associated with rehabilitation is that they are short term and do not authorize lengthy enough restrictions of liberty in order to allow time for proper diagnosis and treatment. A criticism of incapacitation is that if a criminal is finally let go from prison, then their interaction with the world then may be criminogenic. It is then viewed that it delays crime rather than prevent. Criticism associated with retribution is that punishing criminals just because they have acted inappropriately does not address any underlying issues that may have led to crimes in the first place.

Question #4 – What are the core arguments underlying legal and philosophical debates on the definition/meaning of punishment and why are they important to justice policy and practice?  In other words, what are the practical implications of these debates for individuals, offenders, and society; how have these debates impacted the real world?

Some theories are the utilitarian theory, retributive theory and denunciation theory. Utilitarian theory seeks to punish offenders with the goal of deterring future offenses. Under the utilitarian theory, punishments are believed to be consequential and the consequences of the punishment for both the offender and society are considered by giving reasonable punishment. The philosophy focuses on maximizing the happiness of the society. The total good produced by the punishment should exceed the total evil Laws that define clearly the consequences of an offence should be designed to deter future misconduct. Rehabilitation also lies under the utilitarian philosophy. Retributive philosophy in turn says that offenders are punished for their behavior because they deserve punishment.

Retributive philosophy states that criminal behavior upsets the balance of the society hence offenders should be punished (Wringe, 2017). It is also based on the assumptions that human beings have will and capable of making right decisions. An offender who is incompetent hence should not be punished. If focuses on the offense rather than basing punishment on social benefits as in utilitarian. Denunciation is a hybrid of utilitarianism and retribution and states that punishment should be an expression of societal condemnation. Practical implications in society for utilitarian philosophy are that the decision made is beneficial for both the offender and society. Retributive philosophy ensures that the offender pays for their wrong while denunciation combines both for example sentencing an offender to prison to quench the thirst for vengeance of the public and offering education in prison at the same time. The real world has been impacted by these debates since the public and law enforcement gets to reflect on how best to undergo correcting and at the same time benefit everyone.

Wringe, B. (2017). Rethinking expressive theories of punishment: why denunciation is a better bet than communication or pure expression. Philosophical Studies174(3), 681-708.

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