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Wednesday, 31 July 2013 14:49

Purpose of Punishment Featured

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Purpose of Punishment


The justice system is an essential pillar of society. Societies establish this system to ensure that criminals are punished for various purposes. The main goals of the justice system are to protect the society, punish criminals and rehabilitate criminals. This paper has evaluated these goals and concludes that the three goals are equally important to society.

 Protecting the Society

One goal of punishment is to protect the society (Thiroux & Krausemann, 2011). Criminals harm the society through their acts of crime. Punishment helps to protect the society by incapacitating the criminal. The justice system incapacitates criminal through incarceration. Incarceration is the most prevalent form of punishment in the American justice system. The US leads the rest of the world countries in terms of the rate of locking up criminal. The idea behind the high rates of incarceration is to reduce crimes by limiting the activities of criminal. The justice system also incapacitates criminals through death sentence. This entails taking the life of an individual who has committed a capital offense. This helps to protect the society by ensuring that dangerous criminal are eliminated. Another way in which punishment protects the society is by deterring criminal from committing crime (Thiroux & Krausemann, 2011). Punishment acts as negative reinforcement to crime. When people are aware that committing a certain crime will land them into problems, they tend to avoid these criminal actions.  This leads to low levels of crime and, thus, a safe society.

 Punish Criminals

The second goal of the justice system is to punish criminals (Thiroux & Krausemann, 2011). This goal helps to promote retributive justice. This is whereby the criminal is punished in order to provide justice to the victims of crime. Distributive justice is based on the rationale that the criminal deserves to undergo the same suffering as the victims of crime (Thiroux & Krausemann, 2011). Not only doe distributive justice help to promote justice for victims of crimes, but it also helps to maintain order within society. Providing retribution to the victims of crime through the justice systems prevents these victims from taking vengeful actions against the perpetrators of crime. Without retributive justice, there would be a lot of anarchy within the society. Punishing criminal also promotes distributive justice. Distributive justice is concerning with ensuring that good and bad resources are distributed among the members of the society (Thiroux & Krausemann, 2011). Failing to punish offenders will create a culture where one class of people is the recipient of evil while another class of people is the recipient of benefits.

 Rehabilitate and Reform Criminals

The third goal of the justice system is to rehabilitate and reform criminals. Punishment helps the offenders to be aware that they have committed an offensive act (Thiroux & Krausemann, 2011). It compels criminals to reflect on their actions and focus on changing on their way. The correctional facilities consist of numerous programs for assisting criminals to reform. Some programs focus on promoting psychological wellbeing while others focus on promoting the social economic status of offenders. However, the goal of rehabilitating and reforming criminal is not often realized.  Statistics indicate that a large portion of people who are released from correctional facilitates return to jail within three years (Thiroux & Krausemann, 2011). This is mainly because the primary causes of crimes are not addressed in the correctional facilities or due to lack of acceptance by the society.


The justice system serves various purposes within the society. The first role is to protect citizens by ensuring that criminals are incapacitated or by deterring crime. The second role of the justice system is to punish criminal in order to provide retribution to the victims and to enhance equity within society. The final role entails helping offenders to reform by giving an opportunity to reflect on the actions. All the three roles are equally important.  


Thiroux J. & Krausemann K. (2011). Ethics: Theory and Practice. USA. Pearson Publishers 


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