Punishment Research Paper

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Punishment Research Paper

William Ward

Axia College of University of Phoenix

SOC120 Intro to Sociology

Yvonne Moore

March 2, 2008




Webster's dictionary defines 'punishment' as a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure (Merriam-Webster, 2007). The type and severity of this punishment has fueled debates for decades. To many, the consequences of the crime should be calculated based on the gravity of the wrong done. In today's society there are four forms of punishment that are used to deter criminal behavior: retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, and societal protection. In this paper we will look at the effects of these four types of punishment on American society.


By far the oldest form of punishment would be retribution. The attitude of revenge was probably the first form of retribution, and is also referenced in the Old Testament with the 'eye for an eye' statement.

The In the Middle Ages, most people viewed crime as a sin that was an offense against God as well as society (Macionis, J.J. 2006, p.182) The interesting aspect of retribution is that it looks backward toward the original crime, and justifies the punishment by what the criminal deserves. There is also the issue of closure for the victims and their families. Because most punishments do not reflect the crime that was committed, the most significant form of retribution is capital punishment.

Capital punishment pits two important demands of society against each other: retribution for violating the most fundamental law against murder against a society's desire to eliminate a culture of violence. Opponents of capital punishment claim that it is State sanctioned murder, and proponents say that it is retribution for the crime committed. You will find many statements about the fact that homicide rates in...