• Shreya Goswami


There are several theories that a government supports for the use of punishment to maintain law and order in the society. Punishment is a penalty that is imposed as retribution for an offence committed. The theories of punishment can be divided into general philosophies, utilitarian and retributive.

The utilitarian philosophy believes that laws should maximize the happiness of society. Since crime and punishment are inconsistent with happiness, hence should be minimized. Hence this theory of punishment aims to discourage the offenders from future wrongdoings by punishing them. they understand that a crime free society doesn’t exist, but they attempt to impose only the amount of punishment that is required. Whereas the retributive theory believes that the crime itself is the reason for inflicting punishment. They believe that criminal behavior upsets the code of conduct of the society and punishment helps to restore the balance, hence the offenders are punished for such unacceptable behaviors because they deserve it. This theory of punishment focuses on the crime itself and punishes the one who chooses to disturb the peaceful balance of the society.



The aim of this theory of punishment is not revenge but terror by stopping people from committing crimes by creating fear. According to this theory of punishment, people are more likely to be discouraged from committing a crime if the punishment is a warning to all that are like minded with the person committing that particular crime. The deterrent theory of punishment has received a lot of criticism in modern times as they tend to harden the criminals instead of creating the fear and hence they are not afraid of punishment. The crueler the punishments are made; the more human minds are hardened. This theory assumes that people know what the penalties for crimes are, they have good control on their actions and they think things through based on logic and not passion, also one of the reasons why it receives criticism.


This theory aims to prevent or disable the person from committing a crime. It does not act so much on the motive of the criminal but disables his power to commit the offence. The offenders are prevented from repeating the offences by punishments such as imprisonment, death, etc. The preventive mode of punishment can prevent a criminal by instilling the fear of punishment, disabling the criminal permanently or temporarily from committing any other crime or by the way of reformation or re-education. Hence, we can say that preventive theory is somewhat related to the deterrent theory and rehabilitation theory of punishment.


The main objective of this theory of punishment is to bring moral reform in the criminal. The criminals sent to prison should be transformed into good citizens by taught some art or industry so that they may be able to start a better life after being released. It is believed that if the criminals are educated and trained, they can be made competent to behave well in society. The Reformative theory is being growing adopted in case if juveniles and is proving to be successful.


This theory of punishment suggests revenge as a method of punishment. The principle of “an eye for an eye” is followed here. Earlier the criminal law was based on this principle that all wrongdoers should be required. Criminologists, Penologists and Sociologists do not support this theory as they feel it is brutal and barbaric. But it is considered necessary to inflict some pain or injury on the wrongdoer in order to otherwise prevent private vengeance.


Here the objective is not merely to prevent crimes but also to compensate the victim of the crime. The critics of this theory of punishment say that the motive of the crime is not always economic and this theory tends to oversimplify the motives of the crime.

Any system of criminal justice cannot be just based on any one theory of punishment; every theory has its perks. The reformative aspect pf punishment has to be given importance but at the same time deterrent aspect of punishment cannot be ignored.


© The People Bookmark | 2020

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