Retribution is a theory of criminal punishment that states that society must punish those who have committed a crime. There is no further justification needed for the punishment except that the offender deserves to be punished because of the crime he committed. According to Immanuel Kant, punishment is a condemnation of the wrongdoer because of his wickedness.
What is the history behind the use of retribution?
The use of retribution is part of any civilization which aims to punish those who have done wrong. Its history can be traced as far back during the biblical times through the middle ages . Even in these modern times, retribution still has a place in the criminal justice system. The sanctions imposed on the offender are deemed to be proportionate to the severity of the crime he committed. The growth of retributivism can be attributed to three factors. First, retributivism is no longer viewed as vengeance but rather something that is deserved by the criminal. Second, it has gained more philosophical justifications; thereby, steering away from the concept of “an eye for an eye” punishment. And lastly, retributivism was reconciled with utilitarianism, the other theory of criminal justice which offers some limiting principles in terms of leniency in the punishment given.
What is the philosophy behind the use of retribution as a criminal sanction?
The philosophy behind the use of retribution as a criminal sanction is that the punishment that must be meted out should be proportionate with the crime committed. It is based on the philosophy of fairness and principle of proportionality. Retribution almost borders on the concept of revenge. Retribution aims to make the offender experience the harm that he did to his victim by giving him a punishment that will equal the seriousness of his crime. The problem with retribution is that it is difficult to equate the crime to the punishment. What do you think is the best criminal sanction philosophy? Why?
One thinks that the best criminal sanction philosophy is restorative justice. “Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behavior. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders” (Prison Fellowship International, 2013, par.1 ). One considers this the best criminal sanction philosophy because it seeks to repair the damage that has been done by the offender. All parties affected by the crime work together to come up with a resolution. Furthermore, it offers support for both offender and victim by helping them be reintegrated back to society. Restorative justice coupled with rehabilitation is what one thinks as the best criminal sanction philosophy because it gives the offender a chance to change for the better.
CliffsNotes. (n.d.). Theories of punishment. Retrieved from cliffnotes.com: http://www.cliffsnotes.com/study_guide/Theories-of-Punishment.topicArticleId-10065,articleId-10039.html
Haist, M. (2009). Deterrence in a sea of "Just Deserts": Are utilitarian goals achievable in a world of "limiting retributivism"? Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 789-821.
Prison Fellowship International. (2013). What is restorative justice? Retrieved from restorativejustice.org: http://www.restorativejustice.org/university-classroom/01introduction