Debate:What is the purpose of the penal system?

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Here starts a very interesting debate - what is the purpose of the judicial system. Crime prevention? Punishment of 'wrongdoers'? Rehabilitation?

Discuss!

Balance[edit]

I believe a judicial system has lots of purposes beyond criminal justice, which seems to be your focus here. I believe that a criminal justice system needs to have balance.

Certainly, some effort needs to be given to preventing crime. Here, I think it's important to consider the type of crime being prevented. Crimes that directly cause harm to people (assault, murder, rape, and other kinds of violence) need the most prevention effort; crimes that might or might not harm people should receive less, but still significant, effort and resources (traffic enforcement, building codes, other miscellaneous regulations). For crimes that don't directly hurt anyone (most finance-related crimes, fraud, breaking contracts), there should be some preventative effort, but focus should be on investigating and prosecuting the crime effectively and efficiently.

I believe that punishment just for the sake of punishment is pointless. Revenge, in general, (government-sanctioned punishment is a type of revenge in most applications) is pointless and wrong. Executing the guy that raped and killed your wife certainly feels good at the time, but it doesn't undo anything that happened to her; it just causes more death. Also, punishment, if misapplied, can't be undone. If you execute the wrong guy, he can't be brought back to life after you figure out the mistake. Even if you just send him to jail for 20 years, if you figure out 10 years later that he didn't really do it, you can't give him back those 10 years.

The focus of criminal justice systems, after a crime has been prosecuted and something has to be done with the criminal, should be rehabilitation in every case where it's possible. Unfortunately, there's nothing that can be done for some people other than to lock them up and keep them from hurting anyone else. For everyone else, though, prison should be an educational experience. The inmates don't usually have much useful stuff they can do in prison, so they should be learning about the world, learning that anger and violence are pointless, etc. OneForLogic 19:44, 17 December 2008 (EST)

I've been meaning to write an entry on punishment, but haven't gotten around to it, exploring the different concepts which make up the wider concept of punishment: e.g. revenge, deterrence, redress, rehabilitarion. Maybe something from this debate can go towards it. I believe that modern judiciary should be about rehabilitating & reforming criminals, with some element of deterrence but not too much emphasis on it, & not about revenge or doing things for the sake of form. so i guess that tallies with what you've said. weaseLOIdWeaselly.jpg~ 19:54, 17 December 2008 (EST)
Rehabilitation -- a priority, yes. Deterrence -- an even bigger priority, yes. However, the primary purpose of the penal system as I see it is to remove dangerous individuals from the society at large. A social contract exists between individuals and the state. Either group has certain powers over the other. The individuals of that state, particularly if it is democratic, submit certain rights and permit restrictions for the benefits that the state can provide, namely protection. When an individual violates this social contract by breaking a law, they are removed from society for the utilitarian purpose of order and security. Of course, this can be broken down exponentially, but this is it in a nutshell. --e|m|c [TALK] 16:09, 19 December 2008 (EST)