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Punishment vs. Rehabilitation – Pro Punishment


It is well known that punishment is the mostly practiced method for controlling crime and criminality. According to Black Law Dictionary, “punishment is a sanction such as a fine penalty confinement or loss of property right or privilege assessed against a person who has violated the law” (399). Punishment for crimes has been recognized a general function of all civilized states for several hundred years. But during the last two hundred years both the theories and practices of punishment and public opinion concerning it has been changed.

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A significant question has been arisen recently that what should be community’s attitude towards a criminal? Should they be regarded as a nuisance to be abated, or a patient to be treated or a refectory child to be disciplined? Should be regarded as none of these things but simply an example through which it can be demonstrated to others that antisocial conduct does not ultimately pay? Thus penologists today are thinking about the crucial problem as to the end of punishment and penal policy.

According to different opinion of modern penologists four types of punishment are being practiced by this time. Those are called theories of punishment. Reformative theory is one of them. And another three theories are deterrent theory, retributive theory and preventive theory. Reformative theory is concerned with rehabilitation of a criminal and other theories are concerned with punishment for the crime. In our statement, we have to compare between rehabilitation and punishment for the criminals.


Azad (2008) shows that;

“The object of punishment should be to bring about the moral reforms of the offenders. Even if an offender commits a crime, he does not cease to be a human being. He may have committed a crime under circumstances, which might never occur again. According to the deterrent theory the wrongdoer is not only be punished to prevent him from doing the wrong second time but also to set him as an example to other person who have the criminal tendencies. To quote Salmond: “Punishment is before all things deterrent and the chief end of the law of crime is to make the evil doer an example and a warning to all that are likeminded with him” (Azad, 2008).

The purpose of this theory is to create some kind of fear in the mind of community’s people by providing adequate penalty and exemplary punishment to the wrongdoer so that the community’s people keep them away from wrongdoing. This theory has some criticism also. Such as it is hardly affect on hardened criminal because of the harshness of the punishment doesn’t influence their mentality. They feel better in prison rather than outside the prison. This theory also fails in some case where the wrongdoer doesn’t commit any crime without prior intention or planning.

According to retributive theory a person who is suffered by a wrong is allowed to take revenge against the wrongdoer. Plato was the main enthusiast of the retributive theory. According to Plato, every culpa demands reparation; the culpa is unattractive and ugly, it is opposing to justice and order; the expiation is attractive because all that is just beautiful and to suffer for justice is also beautiful. The modern penologists don’t support this theory because it can never be neither wise nor desirable. If this is practiced in the society then there will be no end of the crime. Everybody will take the chance for revenge. It is naturally condemned as a vindictive approach of the defender.

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According to the preventive theory the wrongdoer is made unable to make any crime again by several punishments such as imprisoned, death, exile etc. It is accepted by all that prisonisation is the best way to prevent a wrongdoer from repeating a crime. By punishing a criminal the society protect itself from many crimes, which threatened the social order in general or person or property of its members. Death or exile is the one and only way for the hardened criminal (murderer) as they as hardly impact of other punishment, so they should be eliminated from the society. This theory is criticized as death penalty is in a questionable position now a day. This is why, it wipe out the light of life, takes away hopes and aspirations of the world, and deprives the blameless children of parental affection, love and care.


As against deterrent, retributive and preventive justice the objective of reformative approach is to bring about a change in the mentality of offender to rehabilitate him as a law abiding member of society. Thus punishment is used as a measure to reform the offender and not to torture or harass. Reformative theory opposes of all kinds of corporal punishments. “Rehabilitation is a process of seeking to improve a criminal’s character and outlook so that he or she can function in society without committing other crimes” (David 2004).

The major objective of the reformist movement is to try for bringing back the criminals into the society as a good citizen. The view of Salmond on the reformatory theory is that “if criminals are to be sent to prison to be transformed into good citizens by physical, intellectual and moral training, prisons must be turned into comfortable dwelling places” (Areti 2007). “The advocates of the reformative theory contend that by a sympathetic, tactful and loving treatment of the offenders, a revolutionary change may be brought about in their characters” (Azad, 2008).

Even the cruel hardened prisoners can be reformed and converted into helpful friends by good words and mild suggestions. Undoubtedly the modern penologists insist in reformative practices but they strongly feel that it may not be extend too far. The reformative method is more applicable in cases of juvenile delinquents and the first offenders. Because there is chance to change their mental attitude as they are at the crucial stage. Sex psychopaths are another important field of this theory. But the hardened criminals may not respond favorably though they know that, whatever they do wrong but they will not be punished. For this thinking crime may increase day by day.

Other hand after rehabilitation it is not sure that the person will not commit any crime again, if he has no such job for earning. Prof. Salmond observed that through general substitution of reformation for deterrence may seem disastrous; it is necessary in certain cases especially for abnormal and degenerates who have diminished responsibility. It therefore follows that punishment should not be regarded as an end in itself but only as a means, the end being the social security. To success the reformative theory govt. have to ensure social security and after rehabilitation jobs for the persons immediately reformatted. After all this theory is totally un applicable for the habitual criminals.


In the above discussion we saw that the punishment has some positive and negative aspects and also reformative theory has also some positive and negative aspects in criminology. In the above discussion we can see that only punishment is not appropriate to remove the crime of our society. Also reformative theory is not correct absolutely. We can say that both of them are necessary to remove the crime. For instances, a child criminal can be reformed his character by reformation because it is the first step in his life.

In case of a habitual criminal and professional murder reformation is not appropriate to reform his character because he is an unethical person. In this case punishment is appropriate to remove the crime, such as death sentence and life imprisonment. At last we can say that sometimes punishment is applicable and sometimes-reformatory theory is applicable in the penalty system. If the penal system uses appropriately both systems then the crime will be decreased.

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But according to reformative theory an offender can get chance to reform his life. If a chance is given him then he can change his life style. We know that prevention is better than cure. If we apply this theory, criminals’ intention to occur crime will decrease day by day. So punishment is not always better.

Young generation is the future of our nation and they committed crime without thinking for their mental immaturity. If we punish them in our ordinary system our nation will be collapse. We should give them a chance and try to understand them that what they done are not correct. When punishment is given to the criminal then crime is not death. Crime is a characteristics feature. It can be removed by reformation. Reformation may be done by moral education, to make him industrious, earning method when he backs to the society. So, it is clearly stated that reformation or rehabilitation is better than punishment.


Areti, Krishna Kumari. (2007). “Role of Theories of Punishment in the Policy of Sentencing”. Social Science Research Network. Web.

Azad, MAK (2008). “Death sentence: International trend and Bangladesh”. The Daily Star. Dhaka. Issue 53.

Black’s Law Dictionary. 8th edition. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Group, 2004.

Bose, Sukumar and Varma, Paripurnanand. (1982). “Philosophical significance of ancient Indian penology”. Journal of Indian Philosophy. Volume 10, Number 1.

David, E. Arredondo. (2004). “Principles of Child Development and Juvenile Justice”. Information for Decision-Makers. Web.

John, Thomas. (2003). “Dealing with Devi-ance: Criminal Punishment and State Control”. National Law School of India University Bangalore. Web.

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