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Criminal justice law was set up for reasons such as punishment and sentencing of crime. When strict measures are not taken to prevent vices, the society becomes a hostile and unfriendly place to be. People live under constant fear and are unprotected creating room for moral decay. Crime is also costly, asserts Cole and Smith (2006 p45) it forces the society to pay dearly in form of increased taxation, price rise and fear. One purpose of sentencing is mostly to give the deserved punishment in accordance to the crime committed. For a long time the decision to sentence was entirely left to the judge who in turn would use previous experience to sentence the crime presented.
As new crimes emerged the need to develop fundamental philosophies became urgent if criminal justice was to fairly sentence and punish crimes. Four basic philosophies are widely used to help understand and determine punishment and sentencing (Cole and Smith, 2006). Retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation are four basic philosophies for sentencing.
Retribution is a philosophy that states severity of a crime only determines crime punishment. Other factors are not considered, the main focus is on how serious/ weighty the crime and no other circumstances.
Deterrence derived from the term means put off or discourage. It thus is a philosophy that suggests punishment should not only be for the offenders. Its severe consequences deter others from committing such crimes. The main thought is that if the punishment is severe potential criminals will avoid committing crimes (Cole and Smith, 2006).
Incapacitation states that on punishment the criminal will be in no capacity to commit the crime again. Separating the criminal from the society reduces criminal activity. Death penalties for instance are a sure way of eliminating crime forever. Once the criminal’s life has ended he can no longer kill or harm the society, it incapacitates him.
Rehabilitation philosophy is the sole purpose of all sentencing done. Modifying behavior and vice eradication is the main aim of punishment and sentencing and can be achieved through rehabilitation. Some crimes can be eliminated through if resources to make individuals productive are provided. Training on the consequences and effects of crime if properly done in the prison modifies behavior. Some criminals after release live a life free of crime as a result of acquired training in during the rehabilitation period (Cole and Smith, 2006).
Determining crime sentence
Most people look up to the jury and judge as determiners of crime sentence. What they do not realize is that several factors have to be examined to conclusively reach the verdict. How serious a crime is normally has a major role in determining sentencing, Some crimes like murder, robbery, homicide, rape and assault are ranked as serious crimes. The sentencing of such a crime is thus incomparable to minor crimes (Wyatt, 2010).
The defendant may be contrite and go ahead to plea guilty showing that they are regretful of the crime committed. A criminal who incriminates himself and pleas guilty may be viewed as an honest person leading to a sentence reduction.
Factors like first time offences are considered too as they prove the fact that he/she has no past criminal records. Factors like crime accessory are looked into, if they were an accomplice of another offender. He may have been forced to commit the crime by assailants.
Physical and psychological state at the time of the crime is also considered. Factors like stress, depression, paranoia, delusions contribute to mental instability causing people to commit crimes unintentionally. The nature of crime tells a lot and determines sentencing. If the victim was hurt, vindictive or property was destroyed clearly depicts violence. This in turn increases the term of sentencing.
They have been ancient methods of punishing crime through death penalties like hanging, use of syringe, electrical chairs, burning, shooting amongst others. The life of a conscious person is seemingly put to an end and slips off. George goes on to describe how he witnesses ‘a life in its full bloom cut down because of a death penalty’ (Orwell, 2004). Any one witnessing the life of another human being come to an end is moved by compassion whether they are of support for the practice or not. They are viewed as inhumane and painful but the victims tell a different story.
Pros and cons
One reason perhaps why death penalty is a critical debate is the inability of humans to create life and therefore never end it. Those who advocate penalty there is no better way of punishing crime. Those who commit crimes are totally wiped off existence. It effectively deals with crime as we never witness repetition of crime from that specific individual. Victims of rape and other offences have to deal with psychological trauma for the rest of their live hoping that the criminal will never strike. It thus reduces crime and creates a sigh of relief for the society. For crimes such as serial killing and homicide living becomes safer as we no longer fear living home only to meet with a serial killer. To some extent homicide rates drop. The practice of an eye for an eye gives fair treatment for all (Wyatt, 2010).
For those who face death penalties it means that they can no longer have their behavior rehabilitated which is the sole purpose of punishment. Previous research by criminologists has proven that once a penalty is publicized, there tends to be an increase in the rate of a similar crime (Phillip, 2009). They die without transformed from the vices that got them sentenced in the first place. Not only is the practice highly condemned socially but is wrong according to many world religions. Human life is sacred and should go back to its author when it ends but not through a penalty. Human right activists view this as a barbaric way of modifying behavior. Unfair crime conviction may lead to death of innocent lives. Past evidence has revealed that many innocent lives are lost to unfair sentencing leaving behind painful memories (Child, 2009).
Debate influences on the decisions for punishment
Punishment and sentencing are methods that are suitable for putting to an ill behavior cropping up in our society. There is need to achieve fairness and justice especially to the accused and victims. Capital punishment has become a highly publicized issue resulting to positive and negative opinions. It is not only a political issue but religious, social and psychological. While some states like Taiwan approve it, some Western Europe states refer to the practice as barbaric (Wyatt, 2010). If capital punishment for instance never attains the purpose of punishment and sentencing, how can we achieve this? There should be establishment of accepted codes of punishing wrong doers. The society needs to air their opinions and suggest suitable ways of addressing the issue of punishment and sentencing. This is one way of achieving success especially in the hotly debated issue of capital punishment.