Philosophies of Punishment: Retribution

Topics: Crime, Punishment, Criminal law Pages: 3 (798 words) Published: November 7, 2013

Philosophies of Punishment: Retribution
David A. Gonzales
California State University, Fullerton

According to the book, Criminal Law and Punishment, written by Joel Samaha, the characteristics of punishment include pain or unpleasant consequences, punishment prescribed by the law, punishment administered intentionally and punishment administered by the state (Samaha 22). The two sole purposes of punishment are prevention and retribution. The five philosophies of punishment include retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, and restitution. Retribution is the best at exemplifying the philosophy of punishment.

Early ideas of punishment included torture, beatings, branding, exile and death. The earliest known punishment systems include the Sumerian Law of Mesopotamia and The Code of Hammurabi, which is based on the Sumerian Law of Mesopotamia. According to, when Hammurabi’s Code was first implemented he believed in the idea of an “eye for an eye.” Over time, Crime did not go away so punishments turned into an “eye for an eye” plus another punishment. This method was used to put everybody on notice that people will have to pay for their actions and that there are consequences for bad behavior. Other punishment systems include: Roman Law of Twelve Tables, The Justinian Code, “Lex Tailonis,” and eventually lead to formal legal sanctions during the Middle Ages. The philosophy of punishment was first derived during the Age of Reason. Today we punish criminals most often following the Classical School of Thought. Cesare Beccaria was the father of the Classical School of Criminology, and he related causation to punishment. British philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, theorized in order to prevent crime; punishment should outweigh the reward of a crime (Seiter).

Retribution is the best philosophy of punishment, more so than the other philosophies of punishment such as deterrence, incapacitation,...

Cited: Becarria, Ceasare. On Crimes and Punishments. New York: Bobbs-Merrill. 1963.
Hammurabi 's Code: An Eye for an Eye. 2008. .
Samaha, Joel. Criminal Law, 10th Edition. Wadsworth, Inc. 2011.
Seiter, Richard P. Corrections An Introduction. 4th Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey:
Pearson Prentice Hall 2014.
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