Wk 10 – Deterrence Theory of Punishment
Criminal Justice – 3 theories:
what justifies this institution?
What’s the rational for punishment?
Should law-breakers be punished?
What justifies spending so much money on punishment?
Goal of punishment: The deterrence theory of punishment - to deter
people from committing crimes again.
A looking forward theory. Justified because of the future.
Therefore akin to Utilitarianism – a form of ‘consequentialism’
Pain inflicted out-weighted by positive effects in future.
• as per utilitarianism, it treats individuals as object for others’
• Disproportional punishment
• Cannot always catch the criminal so other criminals not deterred.
• Victims are lost – experience was in the past but deterrence
focuses on the future.
Utility of Punishment: Bentham
1. The principle of utility (POU)
§ This theory of punishment is based on Bentham’s moral legal, &
political philosophy – based on the principle of utility.
§ Utility = property in an object whereby it tends to produce benefit,
advantage, pleasure, good, happiness, or prevents evil, mischief, pain,
§ Therefore, principle of utility = approves or disapproves of every action
based on whether it diminishes happiness of the party in question…
§ The greatest happiness principle.
§ Party affected by consequences of an act can be individual or a group
§ An act can be that of an individual, government, etc, § THE PRINCIPLE OF UTILITY IS THE SUPREME LAW OF MORALITY AND
AT THE SAME TIME THE FUNDEMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF LEGAL AND
§ A basic principle of ethics.
2. Aims of the Punishment
§ Should only consider the effects of punishment, good or bad. POU
promises to exclude some greater evil.
§ Punishment is a source of security to all – to potential criminals in
deterrence, and to victims in safety.
§ Desirable consequences of punishment outweigh the evil therefore
1) Prevention – of future offenses is the principle end of punishment and
its main justification. Safe-guarding the future.
i. Particular prevention - prevent future offending via eliminating desire
to offend – deterring through fear.
• Disablement – to deprive offender of physical ability to offend
(prisons, execution etc).
• Reformation – to change offenders’ inclinations, motives, habits,
character to not repeat offences.
• Deterrence – punishment offers frightening example of evil
inflicted on offenders thereby inducing potential offenders to
desist. A prevention.
ii. General Prevention – display fr