To what extent is it possible to make the punishment fit the crime? 

This question is on the topic Crime and Punishment, and this is a pretty simple question for the A levels. Students need to be aware of the different goals of punishment such as for retribution, reformation and in extreme situations to incapacitate the criminals from ever committing the crime. Justice is to be administered out in the process, but how do we actually ensure that justice is being served in the right proportion? Let’s take a look at some of the issues that the judicial system may face while deciding on the sentence to mete out to the criminals.

Issues to consider:

  • The simplest way to make the punishment fit the crime is to follow the retributive goal of an eye for an eye. For instance, if the perpetrator stole $100, an effective punishment is to take $100 from the perpetrator. In view of this approach, one should always consider if this punishment would be an effective deterrent to stop the criminals from committing the crime? However, we should always take note that this punishment does not take into account resentment on the part of the victim, whether the victim feels compensated enough?
  • From an environmental perspective, we can consider the recent Volkswagen scandal on cheating emission. They have been fined for their “crime” of not fulfilling the environmental conditions necessary for the cars. However, one has to consider if imposing an economic cost just the end to the crime? The ones who are responsible for the cheating emission scandal got away scot-free, the liability is on the company. In such a situation, does the economic fine justify the crime? Also, it is difficult to pinpoint the real economic cost to the environment.
  • Another perspective to take a look at would be from the social perspective. How does a society like India deal with the rampant rape crimes? If we apply the retributive aspect here, would it fit the crime? There was a recent news about how an Indian guy raped a girl from a village, and the girl’s relatives took revenge by raping a girl from the perpetuator’s family. In such a situation, won’t the retributive goal of punishment be totally absurd?

All in all, we should always note that it is not easy to always make the punishment fits the crime. Sometimes, the crime is too hard to value by the judiciary system as the impact of the crime is widespread.

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