The paper "The Concept of Criminal Punishment" is an outstanding example of an essay on social science. Punishment and sentencing have gone through various phases throughout the history of Western civilization. The paper will discuss the concept of and rationale behind criminal punishment as it used to be meted out and how it is handled now. How has it changed?
Criminal punishment has always existed in societies throughout history; from exiling to imprisonment to fines, those who go against the behavior deemed “proper” by the society are punished. In earlier times, criminal punishment was meted out for the purpose of retribution; the offender should be punished so that the ones who were wronged could be avenged. The punishment was left to the ones injured, or their families, who would decide what punishment was to be meted out and how. There was no need for the punishment to be proportionate to the crime committed.
This concept has greatly changed over time. There was a need felt by the society that the crime and the resultant punishment should be proportionate. Moreover, the need for retribution was replaced by a need for reformation – the offender should be encouraged to make amends and change himself and/or his attitude to become a better person and conform to the rules set by the society. Another factor that has been altered is the physical aspect of the punishments; whereas before drawing and quartering were considered to be a form of punishment, now they are no longer acceptable and are considered cruel. Additionally, steps are being taken to abolish capital punishment from all societies in the world as well. Also, crimes are now considered to be offenses against the state and not persons, so it is up to the state to mete out the punishment.
The criminal punishments have been transformed so as to fit well to the sensibilities of people, as there has been a later trend to use them to protect and reform the society and the criminal respectively, and not merely to seek vengeance as was done before.
King, J. C. (1980). A rationale for punishment. The Journal of Libertarian Studies, IV(2), 151-165.