Chapter Six: Punishing
• Punishment, understood as the imposition of some form of censure or sanction in response to a deviant act obviously
constitutes an important mode of social control
• Punishment is enacted by the state through the CJ process but punishing also involves communities and individuals
• Whether formal or informal punishment, it tends to be assumed that the selection of a particular form of punishment will
reflect societal norms concerning the perceived seriousness of the deviant act concerned
• Innes’ focus is on issues of penality, defined as the complex of ideas, institutions, rules and practices pertaining to
The idea of punishment
• Analyzing punishment as a mode of social control involves exploring how punishment should be performed and how it is
performed. Why punish?
- The majority of debates have assumed that some form of punishment for deviant acts is necessary. Consequently, what
has tended to be debated are the aims, justifications and methods to be employed.
- We feel that punishment, if it’s appropriately designed and implemented, should work.
- From an early age we are accustomed to thinking in terms of the social fact that punishment is a way of controlling deviant
behaviour and a method for internalizing societal norms as the basis for self-control (and Freudians may go further to say
such acts are necessary for the regulation of otherwise destructive impulses).
- Philosophical theories of punishment can be distinguished between those that see the primary objective of punishment as
being the prevention of future crimes and those that focus on punishing crimes already committed.
o Those that aim to prevent future crimes: utilitarian, consequntialist and reductivist approaches – argue that the
aim of punishment is deterrence, both individual and general
The deterrence function can happen through prevention or incapacitation, and reform or
o Punishing crimes already commited: Advocates of a retributivist position argue that punishment is imposed
because offenders deserve it. They criticize the former where punishment is directed by aims of incapacitation
and rehabilitation, arguing that such ideas could lead to people being subject to disproportionately harsh
punishments on basis of predictions about future actions. For them it is important that the punishment fits the
crime and the amount of harm imposed on the person being punished is proportionate to harm caused by the
- Durkheim/Functionalist tradition: acts of punishment are not simply a matter of responding to deviance, they are frequently
also rituals of order, where a sense of belonging to a particular group and adherence to a belief system is performatively
enacted. Punishment is necessary for the moral order
- Marxist/Conflict theories: they argue that the how and why questions for punishment can only be addressed by situating
the key institutions and practices of punishment in a capitalist framework
- Weber: didn’t really address issues of punishment but his rationalization thesis applied to the topic of punishment and
points to the ways in which punishment has increasingly been thought of as an administrative undertaking that is
managed by a bureaucratic apparatus
How punishments are enacted?
Contemporary punishments take a number of forms; depending upon the gravity of the deviant act that has been committed, include
imprisonment, probation, fines, curfew orders, etc.
It is useful to distinguish between punishments that are based on confinement, served in the community and hybrid punishments
that lie in between the former two.
- Confinement, most usually done through incarceration in prison – tends to be reserved for what is deemed to be the most
serious forms of deviant behaviour
- There has been a trend towards expansion of imprisonment in Western societies and as a method of social control,
imprisonment has become increasingly important
- There has also been increasing pessimism about the efficacy of prison as a method of control.
- It has been argued that prison is an expensive way of making bad people worse “schools of crime”
- Consequently, the idea that imprisonment can reform or rehabilite an offender has given way to the more modest aim of
incapacitation – it is now portrayed as a mechanism for separating criminals from non-criminals rather than a site for
reform. This has been justified on the basis that at least the non-criminals will have greater security.
- Control in prisons is far more contingent and negotiated than rhetoric’s imply
- In liberal democratic countries incarceration is the key punishment used by the state to respond to serious acts of
- Ignatieff: prisons were somewhat chaotic institutions used to hold deviants until the time when their actual punishment
could take place. This confinement function continues to be performed in contemporary penal systems
- Most histories of penalty suggest that the transformation of the prison from a place of confinement prior to the punishment
being carried out, to the punishment itself, represents a key change in the social function of imprisonment.
- There are two interlocking dimensions to punishing through imprisonment o One: Disciplinary regimes of the institution: involves control of time and space through monitoring and
timetabling the conduct of those subject to the regime
o Two: Separation from the outside world and all that it involves
- Foucault traces why practices of discipline that we associate with imprisonment as a form of punishment were developed
and instantiated within the routines of prison life – he argued that the technologies and apparatus associated with modern
prison were designed and implemented in order to engage in “Soul training,” including conformity at the same time as
repressing deviant motivations. Prison was just one of a number of institutions that emerged with the purpose of instilling
discipline and producing normal behaviour
- Goffman and his study of mental asylums: The kinds of soul training technologies and apparatus described above
constituted the basis for a number of what Goffman termed total institutions
o What these social establishments had in common were similar principles of organization, in that those subject to
the regime had their behaviour closely monitored and regulated by the staff of the institution in a systematic and
o Arrangements in such establishments are deliberately designed to allow for a form of social control that is, at
least in principle, almost all encompassing, or total. The distribution of controls in these settings appear on the
surface to be pervasive, intense and systematic, directed at the control of outward behaviour and regulating the
- Foucault argues that prisons constitute a focused example of how control functions permeate the everyday routines and
structures of modern societies. Through his development of the concepts of panoptic surveillance and discipline, he
details how, within the walls of prison, pervasive and penetrating regimes for monitoring the conduct of inmates aim to
induce a form of reflexive self-monitoring of conduct
- There are similarities between accounts provided by Goffman and Foucault. However, Goffman goes further
- Goffman’s ‘underlife’ of total institutions: individuals, even when subject to all encompassing regimes of control are able to
actively develop strategies to insure themselves to the regulatory system so as to preserve a sense of self and
- Goffman distinguishes between primary and secondary adjustments
o Primary: those adjustments made by the individual in order to meet the demands and expectations of the
o Secondary adjustments: the unauthorized habitual adaptations developed to act or think in a way contrary to the
o In the institution inmates facilitated the process of secondary adjustment through the use of ‘make do’s’ –
objects whose use and meaning were transformed by the user to accomplish different ends
o The use of make do’s was a way of accomplishing practical tasks but also the refashioning of objects was