Is punishment always the right solutions to stop crime?

Categories: CrimeRights

Punishments are meted out for three reasons – deterrence, retributivism, and incapacitation. The first, deterrence seeks to prevent future wrong doing. Retributivism is linked to notions of justice where crime must be met with an appropriate punishment. The last, incapacitation, seeks to protect society at large from criminals. This essay will examine whether punishment is always the right solution to stop crime, in light of the reasons for dishing out punishment to criminals. From the perspective of justice, punishment is the right solution to stop crime, as justice must be upheld in society.

However, from a more pragmatic point of view, punishment may not always be the right way to stop crime as it is often ineffective. Instead of just meting out punishment, the right solutions should focus on educating and reforming the offenders as well as educating the general public for the sake of a better society in the future.

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From a practical perspective, punishment is not always the right way to stop crime as its deterrence effect is limited.

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For the offenders, deterrence presents a threat of negative consequences to prevent offenders from engaging in criminal activity in the future; for the public, deterrence send a message to the general population to show that if one engages in criminal activity, there will be severe consequences. The assumption is that human beings are rational to weigh the benefits and loses of committing a crime. It might seem that the prospect of receiving a death sentence would deter murderers from committing such offences.

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However, many studies on deterrence and the death penalty do not support this idea. The deterrence theory is not always applicable to all the cases, especially for violent. This is because most of the time when the offenders commit violent crimes, their criminal intent overshadows their ability to think rationally of the consequences of their wrongful act. For instance, terrorists are willing to sacrifice their lives to commit the crime, so even the most severe punishment death penalty does not serve as a deterrence for them. Also, a recent study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology reported that 88% of the country’s top criminologists surveyed do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to homicide.

These statistics all shows that the deterrence effect of the punishment cannot always erase people’s intent of committing crime. As long as offenders are willing to take the consequences, the deterrence effect does not work on them. In contrast, the alternative of civic education, can help erase people’s intent of committing the crime. Unlike the deterrence effect, it has an edifying effect. With implanting the right positive values, the potential offenders would learn how to find alternative methods to release their anger to someone or to distract themselves from committing the crime. In this way, their negative intent can be erased and result in stopping the crime. Therefore, in my opinion, the civic education is more effective than punishment and it should be right solutions to stop the crime.


While in many cases, punishment metes out the appropriate justices, this is not true in all the cases. Sometimes, punishment may be blind to the causes of the crime and the circumstances of the criminal. The result is that punishment is not always the right method to stop the crime. Retributivism is a form of justice, whereby when an offender breaks a law, they are required to forfeit something in return. It is based on the principle of lex talionis: “An eye for an eye, a life for a life”, which states that whatever crime carried out will be punished proportionally. Another purpose of retributivism is to bring the closure for the victims for a short term, however, this only brings short term benefits for victims. In the long run, the retributivism does not serve to solve the real problems of the offenders. There are many cases that criminals may be wrongfully accused and sentenced to death. Cases like Li Yan, a Chinese woman who killed her abusive husband after 4 months of brutal domestic violence was sentenced to death. However, her action can be regarded as self-defense.

Hence, Amnesty International East Asia has tried to call for a reversal of the sentence. The real problem behind this crime is the lack of protection of women from the domestic violence in China. However, the judgment only focused on how Li Yan should give her life for a life. The punishment actually fails to address the fundamental causes of crimes and fails to do true justice, given that the criminal has sympathetic circumstances. In many cases, offenders committing crimes may due to some reluctant difficulties or they need survive in a harsh conditions. Therefore, instead of just meting out the punishment blindly, it is more important to ensure that true justice is done, such that criminals are not wrongfully convicted. This can be done by solving the social issues behind the crime and it is a more proper solution to stop the crime.


Incarcerating dangerous people to get them off the street and remove them from society helps prevent future harm by these criminals. Imprisonment punishes people by removing their right to personal liberty. However, the incapacitation effect does not serve to educate and reform the offenders. Once the offenders are released from prison, they may easily commit the crime again. Jon Venables, 31, was released from jail just over 3 years ago, but was soon was sent back to prison for distributing child pornography. When he was ten years old, he served 8 years for killing two-year-old kid called James Bulger. James’s parents were furious with the decision to release such a danger person as they believe it is only a matter of time before he commits another crime against a child. There are many offenders like Jon Venables who always repeat the same crimes. This shows that incarcerating the offender is not able to reform him into a good person. Solutions should achieve the purpose of educating and reforming the offender on top of imposing a penalty for their wrong doings so as to stop him recommitting the crime. The incapacitation effect of the punishment clearly fails to serve this purpose.

Many offenders start getting into their criminal habits since young. The lack of correction from their parents or school indulges their wrongfulness and results in the difficulties of reforming them after they are grown up. Therefore, punishment is not always the right solutions to stop crime as it does not change or reform offenders’ habits and concepts. Compare to civic education, it is clearly far more efficient for stop the crime as it help form the good habits and moral concepts in people. Moral education enlightens the general public's sense of justice. Implanting positive values in youth is the best way to prevent crimes as foster the good characters and habits need to start cultivating from childhood. The punishment is essential for society to function. We sleep well at night because criminals are being locked up and punished, and victims feel that they have achieved redress for the wrong suffered.

A survey in 2005 shows that 95% of Singaporeans feel that death penalty should stay as it increases the sense of security. Hence, while it is true that sometimes criminals are wrongfully convicted, and that they may not be deterred or reformed, we do need a system of punishments in place due to our notion of justice. We cannot completely adopt an educational or rehabilitative approach. In conclusion, while punishments can be the right way to stop crimes (at least in terms of justice and how punishments are a reflection of the moral code of society), the effectiveness of punishments can be limited, hence perhaps it should be implemented in conjunction with other approaches.

Approaches To Crime Prevention


Crime prevention can be influenced by many things like social work, sociology, community, urban planning and design, criminology and even education. This paper will focus on the dominant approaches to crime prevention that is used by law enforcement, courts and corrections. It will compare and contrast all the dominant approaches and then analyze which are the most effective.

Dominant approaches to crime prevention

The dominant approaches to crime prevention for law enforcement is situational, social developmental, community, policing. Situational is to reduce the number of crime events by focusing on limiting the opportunities for crime to occur. This approach normally assumes that the offender makes decisions that are broadly rational. They use five techniques to make it harder by increasing the effort that is required to commit a crime, target hardening, controlling access to targets, tools required to commit the crime and increasing levels of formal surveillance or guardianship. Social developmental crime prevention favors the struggle against the underlying cause of criminal activity and victimization. This is considered a long term approach which requires the mobilization of dynamic forces within a community.

Criminal activity has many causes that can be complex. But there are several factors that can bring someone to commit a crime. These things are called risk factors: Poverty, Drug addiction, Bad acquaintances, Abusive treatment, Weak self-esteem, School dropout, no parent skills. Community is strategies and programs based on targeting changes in the community’s infrastructure, culture, or the physical environment in order to reduce crime. Some of these diversity approaches maybe neighborhood watch, community policing, urban or physical design and comprehensive or multi-disciplinary efforts.

Policing researchers and police have developed different policing strategies, philosophies, and methods for dealing with crime. Hot spot policing is one that identifies and formulates a strategic response to hot spots within the high crime area. This can help in reducing crime in both the hot spot and surrounding areas. Information led policing should be the heart of every police department. This type of policing is more effective when multiple agencies access, share and analyze intelligence and other data.

Courts and Corrections

The court and corrections look at crime prevention different than law enforcement does. They have six categories they go by Incapacitation, Deterrence, Rehabilitation, community restraints, Structure, Discipline and Challenge, Combining Rehabilitation and Restraint. Incapacitation is the concept that as long as the offender is incarcerated they cannot commit a crime outside of prison. This will reduce crime in the community as long as they are serving time. This can also deter crime by the thought of spending time in prison. They hope it will help the offender serving time to not commit a crime after their released. Deterrence is a strategy used in early criminological theory that repugnant punishments will keep people from committing crime. Some of the deterrence maybe programs like scared straight, chain gangs and shock probation.

These programs major emphasis is on the punitive nature not reducing crime through restraint, discipline or challenge. Some others could have to with fines that fit the crime. Rehabilitation and treatment this focuses on changing the individual offender in hopes they will not continue their criminal activities by using programs such as therapy and consoling. Community Restraints this refers a group of alternative punishments to increase the amount of surveillance and control over offenders when they are in the community. These programs could be referred to as semi incapacitation because it should reduce the offender of committing a crime.

Some of the programs are house arrest, electronic monitoring, halfway house and intensive supervision. Structure, Discipline and Challenge this refers to programs such as boot camps for juveniles and adults and even wilderness programs. These programs focus on structure and discipline and physical or mental challenges. The different experiences the offender goes through during the program should change them in a positive way as to not commit any more crimes. This should increase their self-esteem and increase their bond with other people involved in the program. Combining Rehabilitation and Restraint this is a combination of programs such as boot camp and rehabilitation some may take drug testing and consoling classes. These type of programs have shown some promise on being successful.

Compare Both Law Enforcement and Courts, Corrections

If we look at the dominant approaches of crime prevention through law enforcement they concentrate on programs that will stop or prevent the crime from taking place. The courts and corrections take the offender after committing the crime and try and find ways to prevent them from reoffending. While deterring others from committing the same crime. I believe in the law enforcement area I would pick community programs over most of them. These programs go after the involvement of the public and police working together to solve issues in their own neighborhoods. This strategy works the best because no one knows their neighborhood better than the people living in it.

This will also bring the police department closer to the public as to gain working relations and information on other crimes in the community. Looking at the courts and corrections I would have to pick two of them. The first being incapacitation because some offenders need to be locked up and receive treatment while being in prison. The other program I would pick is the combining rehabilitation and restraint. I believe this program gives you more options to combine the programs that fit the offender’s needs. This program also works on their self-esteem and their bonding with other people that can make a example for them.


Andrews, D. A., ; Bonta, J. (1994). The Psychology of Criminal Conduct. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing CO. Harland, A. T. ed. (1996). Choosing Correctional Options That Work: Defining the Demand and Evaluating the Supply. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Sarat, A. (2009). New Perspectives on Crime and Criminal Justice. Bradford: Emerald Group Pub. Sozer, M. (2010). Crime and Community Policing. El Paso: LFB Scholarly Pub. LLC. United Nations Office on Drugs and, C. (2010). Handbook on the Crime Prevention Guidelines: Making Them Work, New York: United Nations.

Updated: Sep 29, 2022
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Is punishment always the right solutions to stop crime?. (2016, Feb 26). Retrieved from

Is punishment always the right solutions to stop crime? essay
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