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Does Punishment Deter Crime? Essay

1471 words - 6 pages

This is a debate that has gone on for centuries. To understand this on going debate one must understand some basic terms. The first is punishment which Merriam-Webster defines as "a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure" (2006 Merriam-Webster, Incorporated), and the next is crime "an act or the commission of an act that is forbidden or the omission of a duty that is commanded by a public law and that makes the offender liable to punishment by that law; especially: a gross violation of law" (2006 Merriam-Webster, Incorporated) and finally recidivism "a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; especially: relapse into criminal behavior" (2006 ...view middle of the document...

"Deterrence is based on the eighteenth-century Enlightenment idea that as calculation and rational creatures, humans will not break the law if they think that the pains of punishment outweigh the pleasures of crime" (Macionis, 2006). This method of punishment serves two purposes, one purpose is to deter the individual from committing the crime because he/she fear the punishment associated with the criminal act and the other purpose is to deter future criminals because they see the effects of the criminal act when the perpetrator is punished.Rehabilitation is defined as "to restore or bring to a condition of health or useful and constructive activity" (2006 Merriam-Webster, Incorporated). "Rehabilitation arose along with the social sciences in the nineteenth century" (Macionis, 2006). Sociologists claim that deviances such as crime are learned behaviors from ones environment. This leads one to believe that if deviant behaviors are learned then these deviants can be taught to obey the rules. The key to rehabilitation is to control the environment the deviants are in, and this leads to the building of reformatories or houses of correction. Another important factor is that the treatment is custom made for each deviant because different personalities require different approaches. This might seem unfair to some because while one deviant is required to go to treatment for 6 months, someone else who has committed the same crime might only be required to go to treatment for 4 months because of different personality or background traits.Societal protection is the "rendering an offender incapable of further offenses temporarily through imprisonment or permanently by execution. (Macionis, 2006). This form of punishment is used when society does not want to try to rehabilitate a criminal or rehabilitation has failed. It also places a large burden on society as well because these criminals have to be cared for while in the prison system. There is no chance for recidivism if the criminal is executed but what if the person executed was later proven innocent?While the debate is on going about which method works the best, society still cries out for help when they have become victimized. One of the largest problems is recidivism, for example, New York state had a "...40 percent (10,795) of the released inmates were returned to custody within 3 years..." (GAO Reports, 2001). In response to public outcry "Between 1993 and 1996, the federal government and 25 states passed what are popularly known as "three strikes and you're out" laws (Austin & Irwin, 2001). What this law requires is that criminals with prior felony conviction receive significant sentence enhancements when being sentenced for their third (or more) felony conviction. These sentence enhancements include "life sentences without parole for at least 25 years on conviction of a third violent felony or for some categories of offenders simply life without parole" (Austin & Irwin, 2001).The three...

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