The four goals of punishment in the
American criminal justice system are retribution, deterrence, incapacitation,
The purpose of the four goals of punishment is to ensure that the sentence the
criminal is receiving is reasonable and just. It is difficult to satisfy all
of the components to the highest degree for all criminals. All of the goals serve a
different purpose and are significant in their own way, but when combined together
they create a very complex sentencing policy for criminals.
goal of punishment is retribution.
Retribution, also known as deserved punishment, it is when one is punished for
committing a crime that harmed other people in some manner (277; ch.9). The purpose of this goal is for
the criminal to understand that if you commit a crime, consequences will come
with that. Depending on the crime that is
committed will decide how serious the punishment is. A lot of factors are considered
with retribution during the sentencing process. Factors such as the age of the
defendant, their previous offense history, not only that but the victims of the
crime. The judge might give the
defendant a sentence that will not only punish him for the crime but also make
the family feel that the proper sentence was given to the criminal.
The next goal of punishment is deterrence. The purpose of deterrence is to
convince criminals and society to not commit future crimes (277; ch.9). Deterrence has two separate subcategories
which are specific deterrence and general deterrence. Specific deterrence is a subcategory
specifically for the criminal.
It is when the punishment for their crime is made severe enough to discourage
the criminal from committing that crime again. General deterrence is a
subcategory specifically for the people in society. It is when the punishment for
the criminal is given to show other people the possible consequences you could
have from committing that crime.
It shows society what the possible consequences could be if another person were
to commit that same crime.
third goal of punishment is incapacitation. The goal of incapacitation is
to keep the criminal away from the public so he will not be able to commit
other crimes (277; ch.9). Keeping the criminal
incarcerated will help society to feel safe because the people would feel more
comfortable knowing the criminal is being kept isolated. This can be done in a variety
of ways. A criminal can be kept away
from the public in minor ways such as house arrest or in more serious ways such
as the death penalty.
A subcategory of incapacitation that is fairly new is selective incapacitation. This is where an individual who
commits the same crime repeatedly will be punished for a longer amount of time (277;
ch.9). By increasing the criminal’s
incarceration time, it is supposed to lessen the chances of him wanting to commit
the same crime again because he could face more time in jail or prison.
goal of punishment is rehabilitation.
The purpose of rehabilitation is to be able to give the offender a chance to
adjust back into society after his sentence (277; ch.9). This can be done with different
types of therapy and counseling.
Adjusting back into society for someone who has been incarcerated can be difficult. Society is constantly changing
and while being in prison it is difficult to see the changes that can occur. By giving the opportunity to have
a support system to help the criminal adjust back into society can be very
beneficial to the miscreant.
priority in the four goals of punishment should be retribution. Retribution is important
because it is a suitable way of showing people that certain actions will have
Not only that, but to show others the penalties that could come with their
crime. Retribution I feel is currently
being met in the criminal justice system. By punishing criminals for the
crimes that they commit is making society content because it is showing us as
the people that criminals cannot get away with their crimes. This is an important goal of
retribution that is consistently being met in the American criminal justice
Certain components of the goals
of punishment do not seem fair.
Specifically, deterrence should not be a priority in sentencing. General deterrence is the act of
punishing someone to show others that consequences come with committing this
crime which seems unfair.
Specific deterrence seems unnecessary because the purpose of selective
incapacitation seems quite similar.
Deterrence seems to overlap with the other goals of punishment and if it was
removed, I do not think it would not heavily effect the sentencing policy.
It is very difficult to satisfy
all four goals of punishment while convicting a defendant. For example, if a defendant is
found guilty for three counts of first-degree murder, it is not likely that the
first thing thought of while sentencing will not be rehabilitation it is more
likely to be retribution.
Retribution because if the crime as serious as three counts of first-degree
murder are committed, the defendant should have to pay for what he has done. On the other hand, if a minor
has been charged with assault, rehabilitation would be more of a consideration
since the defendant would be so young. All of the goals overlap in some ways,
but each goal serves its own significant purpose. To be able to simultaneously
satisfy all of the components of the four goals of punishment would be
By using the four goals of punishment,
it is making a very effective sentencing policy in the American criminal
justice system today. Retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation
all have important purposes in the sentencing process. By keeping these four
goals of punishment, most of society will understand that if you commit a
crime, you will have to “pay your debt” (277; ch.9). The purpose of punishment is
for people to acknowledge the American criminal justice system and take it