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Essay on Varying Rationales and Ethical Frameworks for Punishment

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What would the criminal justice system be without punishment? Perhaps, the criminal justice system would not serve a function or cease to exist. Punishment is one of the main facets of the criminal justice system. It holds such significance that it even reflects the beliefs and values of a particular society. Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) once said “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” (Pollock, 2010: 315). Punishment has been around since the beginning of civilization. With its rich history, the concept of punishment has been analyzed by some of the most renowned theorists, some of which include Jeremy Bentham, Cesare Beccaria, Adolphe Quetelet and André-Michel Guerry (Pollock, 2010: 318). Once found guilty of an offense the type of punishment must be determined. There are many different rationales used to answer why it is necessary to inflict punishment. Rationales for punishment include retribution, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. To better understand these rationales ethical systems such as utilitarianism, ethical formalism and ethics of care can be used. The general public should be knowledgeable about punishment, even more so should professionals in the criminal justice field because they are directly linked to it in some way.
At one point in history punishment and incapacitation were seen as the only logical ways to respond to crime (Pollock, 2010: 318). The majority of people used a religious perspective when viewing criminals. Criminals were believed to be sinners with no ability to change their behavior (Pollock, 2010: 318). From early on punishment was a topic that demanded an intellectual understanding. Two major criminologists from the Classical School were Jeremy...


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... retentionists is not going to end anytime soon. Nor, will the debate about the dilemmas and rationales surrounding punishment.
Punishment has been a topic known to interest people, from famous philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham and Adolphe Quetelet to just about anyone. The topic of punishment will continue to demand a better understanding. Punishment has been around since the beginning of civilization. Inevitably, with time the forms of punishment considered acceptable today are going to change. Without punishment would our criminal justice system cease to exist? Or would a functioning society cease to exist for that matter? Society will probably always rely on one form of punishment or another. Punishment is one of the main facets of the criminal justice system. It holds such significance that it even reflects the beliefs and values of a particular society.



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