Why Does Crime Require Punishment?


The law defines a crime as an act or intention to commit the act that is against the laid down moral standards for which the victim can be convicted. In case of intention to commit a crime, the intellectual apprehension of facts and factual elements must be enjoined in the criminal law.

There must be an inference on the voluntary commission of the overt act. However, in the case of insanity of the person who commits a crime, the victim is exempted from punishment for a criminal act.

The law also exempts legal minors from criminal liability. Probation and rehabilitation are preferred for punishment. Persons that are subjected to the commission of criminal act under duress are also exempted since the criminal acts they commit are involuntary.

According to van Prooijen, for legal punishment to be invoked, the law must define the act that a certain defendant commits as a crime and sustain it as such during the prosecution (72). Crimes and criminal acts are punishable by statutes of various countries.

In most countries, crime is punished through death or hanging, exile, imprisonment, removal from public office that a criminal hold, fines, forfeiture of property, and disqualification from holding public office.

However, there has been a debate as to why criminals have to be punished rather than being forgiven. Therefore, the paper unravels the puzzle by providing a detailed discussion of the reasons why punishment is the way out for criminal offenses.

Reasons why Criminal Offences require Punishment

Criminal punishments are penalties that are imposed by various governments on persons who violate criminal laws that prohibit one from behaviors that are harmful to society as a whole.

Various reasons for punishing criminal offenders include to revenge against the wrongdoer, to prevent further criminal acts by the person committing the crime, to deter other would-be criminals from committing a similar crime, or to deter others from contemplating of committing a similar crime.

However, in modern society, countries have embarked on correction instead of penalties. Crime is also punished for incapacitating unlawful and dangerous individuals for example through restriction. Various methods of punishments can alter people’s behavior in different ways.

It is worth noting that the severity of crimes has reduced with time especially in modern society. Crimes are therefore punished according to the degree of severity of the criminal act committed.


Retribution is one of the goals of criminal punishment. In fact, it is the oldest of all the goals of punishing criminal acts. Retribution is the act of correcting persons for their wrong deeds. Retribution was in the application as early as in the 18th century BC by the Babylonians.

The Babylonians applied the principle of equal treatment of offenders. In addition, the Hebrews also applied the principle of an eye for an eye in punishing criminals and criminal acts. Moreover, in ancient America and England, retribution was the major objective of punishing criminals.

However, Edney asserts that it has been realized that, although retribution would correct the criminals and deter them from committing crimes, the method applied in administering it was sometimes more severe than the level of crime committed (247).

In the administration of criminal punishment, a thief is imprisoned for 20 years for stealing a loaf of bread in order to feed his starving family. Such a punishment does not the equal the level of crime that the criminal commits. In fact, the sentence exceeds the crime committed by far.

In the United States, various methods of correction have been entrenched into the federal constitution. However, unlike in the past when the correction was not regulated by any law, the correction laws enacted by Congress and the legislature are regulated.

Each correction program in the U.S has regulations. The correction punishments that are adopted by the U.S include restitution, victim compensation for losses suffered, fines, pain infliction, and making the offenders suffer for the crime they committed.

In a bid to make the offenders pay for the crimes that they committed, they are made to work for long hours with only minimal payments for their work.

Such acts are targeted at correcting the wrong behavior of the criminals. According to Uotila and Saija, when restitution is applied as a form of punishment the victims of the offense are able to regain their property (189).

For example, if one was robbed of his or her money and other belongings during a violent robbery, the property is given back after recovery. The criminal is then punished by hard work or physical infliction of pain.

When the society witnesses that the property has been restituted to the rightful owner, it believes that the crime has been punished.

In the same way, when the victim of a criminal act such as rape realizes that the person who committed the heinous act on him or she has been punished through physical infliction of pain and imprisonment, he or she feels relieved.

Some victims would believe that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth are the only way of relieving the damage done on them.

Retribution will, therefore, serve to relieve the victim with satisfaction that justice has been done. Wellman argues that retribution aims at correcting the offender and making him or her change from his or her criminal behavior (371).

When such a criminal change his or her behavior, the goal of retribution is therefore achieved. However, in some instances, criminals do not change their behavior. There is little evidence of a change of behavior on criminal offenders who undergo government-imposed retribution.

Retribution is also ritualistic to the society from which the criminal may be coming.

For example, according to Uotila and Saija, when the society knows that a certain criminal has been punished through beating, hard labor or fines, it becomes satisfied that the crime committed has been appropriately punished (189).

Such an act will promote the re-acceptance of the offender into the community after the completion of the punishment. If the society does not witness any correction measures being implemented by authorities on the criminal, they are likely to revenge in an unlawful manner.


The other major goal of criminal punishment is deterrence. Deterrence is the act of discouraging actions or preventing the occurrence of an act by instilling doubt, fear, or anxiety on the likely offender. It is aimed at proactively acting before a crime is committed.

Deterrence is also aimed at appealing to the mind and the feelings of the offender or likely offenders. It uses mechanisms such as sounds, sight, or a combination of the two. In most of the instances, it is done by taking the criminal through a painful experience.

Such an experience is aimed at making the criminal regret of having committed the crime or vow never to commit it. Juvenile offenders are also taken through deterrence programs by exposing them to the hard way of life that criminals experience in prisons.

According to van Prooijen, deterrence as a punishment for criminal acts is divided into two parts: specific deterrence and general deterrence (73).

Specific deterrence is implemented through sentencing a criminal to a long period of imprisonment. The aim of taking this strategy is to make sure that the criminal is disappointed about the crime that he or she committed.

Other persons with the intention of committing crimes, or who are contemplating of committing a crime, are also likely to be deterred when they learn about long a sentence. Long sentence as punishment for crime acts as deterrents for crimes.

Imposition of a severe punishment on criminals is deterrence to crime commitment. In the future of such a criminal, he or she would not want to commit such a crime since the experience is bad. Guthrie asserts that imposing a large fine is also a good means of deterring criminals (259).

Money is a source of motivation to many people. Denial of it can equally be a source of de-motivation. When one is forced by law to withdraw huge sums of money from his or her account to give it away as a punishment, he or she is likely to avoid the criminal act.

It takes time and efforts to earn money. Therefore, no one would like to lose it to someone else in the form of compensation. Offenders will therefore think about the time they have spent earning and saving money and hence regret the cause of the loss.

According to van Prooijen, the aim of the deterrence method is to ensure that the offender feels sorry in the loss besides regretting of his or her actions (72). Consequently, such regrets should result in a vow of not committing the crime again.

In addition, the huge sums of money that the criminal offender loses in such a case are likely to take him or her a considerable amount of time to regain.

During such a time when the offenders are trying to regain the amount of money lost, they are less likely to involve themselves in criminal activities. Such people will also act as tools to cultivate good behavior and obedience of the law.

The experience will enable them to communicate about the consequences of criminal actions to other people thus deterring other potential criminals in the process. General deterrence targets persons who ponder committing a crime.

For example, when a court sentences a criminal to a death sentence, the intention is to dissuade other criminals that may be contemplating committing such a crime.

Guthrie asserts that, when a potential criminal, for example one that was planning to commit robbery through violence, learns that another offender of such an act has been sentenced to death, he or she is likely to shun the crime (259). People naturally fear death.

Consequently, when on realizes that he or she can be sentenced to death after committing a crime, he or she stands a better chance of avoiding it.


The other objective of punishing crimes is to incapacitate criminals. Punishments for crimes are aimed at making criminal offenders incapable of committing crimes. In fact, Edney affirms that incapacitation is done especially to criminals who pose a threat to human life or to the society (247).

Wellman also argues that incapacitation is majorly done by restricting the freedom of movement or liberty of the offender (371). The premise is to ensure that the offender receives a punishment that equals the crime committed.

Criminals are isolated from the rest of society by confining them or through incarceration, which is the aptest technique of preventing and deterring crime.

Wellman affirms that, once a criminal is confined into prison, he or she is barred from committing another crime, or from destroying property (371).

This method also aims at inflicting psychological pain. Uotila and Saija make it clear by positing assert that, it is only through incarceration that the public is assured that it is protected and that the government is combating crime (190).

The public and the victim of a certain criminal act will not rest assured that the criminals have been rightfully punished until they witness that they are apprehended and jailed.

For example, a rape victim and witnesses against a criminal may live in the fear of counter attacks. However, incarceration is expensive. Therefore, the government may not be able to imprison all criminal offenders.


In modern society, people want to punish criminals through correction and transformation of behavior. The premise is that, although one may punish a criminal, the behavior may not change.

Criminals should be made remorseful about their actions and should be made to change their behavior. Although rehabilitation was in the application by the Quakers in as early as 1787, it did not become popular until the 19th century when Americans began applying it in crime punishment.

In the rehabilitation of criminals, modern society differs from the Quakers’ way of teaching theology only to teaching basic education and skills.

According to van Prooijen, rehabilitation has been upheld across the world (72), with vocational training programs that are aimed at changing the behavior of the criminal offender and providing him with useful skills being provided.

However, when not well-administered, rehabilitation fails. Hence, the rate of recidivism increases.

In fact, in most countries, for example, the United States, the criminal offender must first begin by serving the incarceration term equivalent to the seriousness of the crime he or she commits before rehabilitation.

However, some nations such as Canada prioritize rehabilitation relative to incarceration. Canada is working to reduce the criminal offenders in incarceration by putting them in rehabilitation.

The premise of rehabilitation is to reform the criminal offender into a law-abiding citizen. In addition to the reformation, the offender gains useful skills in various fields.

Edney asserts that useful skills, for example, carpentry, masonry, and formal education enable the offender to find gainful self-employment or employment in various places after his or her term of imprisonment (250).

With a good source of income, the once criminal offender is likely to change and live a descent life. Counseling programs are also administered in rehabilitation centers to enable the offender to make resolutions for a better life.

Personal Opinion

In my opinion, all criminal offenders should undergo punishment for their actions. The laws of various countries should guide the correction departments on how to administer punishment for various offenses.

As van Prooijen affirms, criminal punishment should be aimed at correcting the behavior of the offender, changing him or her to a law-abiding citizen (72). The punishment should also work to discourage such a criminal from committing another crime in the future.

Other potential criminals should also be deterred through the punishment that is administered on a certain offender. These objectives can work to reduce the level of crime in the world. Also, crime punishment should also provide relieve and satisfaction to the victim of the criminal act.

Such a victim may be a person, a community, or the whole nation. The victim should be satisfied that the criminal has been rightfully punished in a legal way. Ensuring that the victim or victims of crime are satisfied with the punishment administered in the law reduces cases of revenge.

It also enhances the level of acceptance of the offenders by the society after they complete their jail term.

In most of the instances, prisoners have faced rejection and isolation by society after they complete their jail term. Proper and acceptable punishment will pave the way for the reintegration of the offender into society.

I also support the punishment of crimes because many nations have written legal codes that prohibit certain behaviors by directing punishment for such behavior. Such laws ensure that the citizens do not take the law on their hands in punishing criminals, for example in mob justice.

Edney affirms that, in the law, there is fairness since all people are considered innocent until proven guilty (247). Therefore, there are few or no errors in punishing criminals under legal process.

In many cases, punishment is able to deter crime commitment since people fear physical pain, isolation, and monetary fines.

In fact, since the law accord punishment according to the seriousness of crime in the case of retribution, people fear to commit serious crimes such as rape, murder, and robbery with violence. Therefore, without punishment for crimes, society would become lawless.

Works Cited

Edney, Richard. “Models of Understanding Criminal Behavior and the Sentencing Process: A Place for Criminological Theory?” Journal of Criminal Law 70.3(2006): 247-271. Print.

Guthrie, Ferguson. “Predictive Policing and Reasonable Suspicion.” Emory Law Journal 62.2(2012): 259-325. Print.

Uotila, Erika, and Sambou Saija. “Victim-Offender Mediation in Cases of Intimate Relationship Violence-Ideals, Attitudes, and Practices in Finland.” Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology & Crime Prevention 11.2(2010): 189-207. Print.

van Prooijen, Jan-Willem. “Retributive versus compensatory justice: Observers’ preference for punishing in response to criminal offenses.” European Journal of Social Psychology 40.1(2010): 72-85. Print.

Wellman, Christopher. “The Rights Forfeiture Theory of Punishment.” Ethics 122.2(2012): 371-393. Print.

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LawBirdie. "Why Does Crime Require Punishment?" March 27, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/why-does-crime-require-punishment/.