The Ethical Theories of Punishment - Essay Example

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The Ethical Theories of Punishment: ANALYSIS ESSAY Ethical theories of punishment greatly impact the individual and society, bringing in its wake far-reaching consequences. The concept of ethical theories of punishment is a delicate and burning issue since ethics and laws change with the times…
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Download file to see previous pages These ethical theories of punishment, based on principles of reciprocity, the potential of human transformation and grace come into conflict with one another because of the differences in the intentions in imposing punishment as well as the effects of the punishment. Ethical considerations regarding punishment are of major consequence since its policies infiltrate into and guide all the systems of government: legislative, judicial and executive. The primary objective of punishment is to preserve law and order in society. It is a method implemented and harnessed by an authority to keep a level of stability in society. The moral barometer of society is most often directed according to the decisions taken by legislators and interpreted by the judiciary. Legally, punishment governs the justice and penal systems in which persons offending the law are brought to justice. The justice and penal systems are integral since human rights must be protected and maintained within these institutions, not only by men, but also by a divine figure. The administration of retributive justice by deity is a concept as old as time immemorial and has been corroborated by our modern justice system. In classical Greece, retributive judgment had religious significance so that the Greeks even had a goddess, Nemesis, which personified and delivered retribution to her followers (Littleton 960). Nemesis is often depicted carrying a pair of scales to demonstrate fairness and inflicted punishment based on the indignation of the gods at particular crime or hubris. Not only in Greek religion but in every religion, there is a mandated form of justice or vengeance for contraventions of the law. Indeed, the goddess Lady Justice stands before major courthouses and Departments of Justice as the dispenser of punishment. Retributive punishment is the brand of punishment retaliatory in nature. Retribution dictates that offenders of the law must face a penalty for their attack on another. The purpose of retribution is to have the guilty party suffer for a wrong committed and “provides limits that the punishment fit the crime” (Natarajan 75). The letter of the law imposes a cost on the part of the transgressor of the law in which the ancient retributive principle of “an eye for an eye” comes into effect. Retributive punishment places the fault of the crime squarely on the shoulders of the offender. In other words, you do the crime, you do the time. Society has instituted and leaned on a penal system for ages as a means of restraining offenders from threatening law-abiding citizens. Retributive punishment constitutes “one of those infringements of the holy will of God in society which can claim a formal legitimacy” (Bedau 439). Hence, one sees that present-day punishment is derived from a legacy of retributive justice. Retributive punishment follows the ethical principle of “an eye for an eye…- the amount of punishment is proportioned to the degree of his responsibility” (Wood 635). In other words, punishment has to be tantamount to the offense. Taken from the Mosaic law, this law signifies that in penal law, offenders’ punishment has to be weighed alongside the crime. The penal system is to a large extent governed by this rule because of religious history and transferred values. Also, the natural reactive attitudes inherent to man compel him to reciprocate an injury done. Standards are set so that judge and jury sentence miscreants ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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