Title: Justification for Punishing Criminals: Incapacitation

Essay by joesox October 2006

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This essay looks at the philosophy of punishment in the criminal justice system, arguing for incapacitation and against deterrence. It points out the strengths of incapacitation and why this philosophy serves our society better than deterrence.

There has never been a general agreement as to how and why we should punish criminals among those in the field of law. The justification of punishment has also been a controversial topic among the general public for years now. Two types or justifications of punishment which have been supported and critiqued are deterrence and incapacitation. Deterrence includes both general deterrence and specific deterrence. Specific deterrence involves the individual and hopes that some form of punishment will scare that individual from committing a crime in the future. General deterrence, on the other hand, is not concerned with the future behavior of the individual. It assumes that most crimes are rational and that potential offenders will calculate the risk of being caught and sentenced to time in jail or prison.

Deterrence does look like a reliable and valid justification of punishment but history has proven that it does not work for many much of our population, especially those who are career criminals. Thus, this paper will attempt to argue on the behalf of incapacitation as the best and most rational justification of punishment. Incapacitation should be considered as the universal justification of punishment because the safety of the public is at stake and keeping the offender locked up prevents further harm to society. To many people, this belief or form of punishment may seem insensitive to the individual offender but it is actually taking the public's safety and well-being into account so that they can live their lives without worrying about being taken advantage of from these criminals. Although both of these justifications of...