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The Purpose of State Punishment

What is the purpose of punishment? One purpose is obviously to reform the offender, to correct the offender's moral attitudes and anti-social behaviour and to rehabilitate him or her, which means to assist the offender to return to normal life as a useful member of the community.

Punishment can also be seen as a deterrent because it warns other people of what will happen if they are tempted to break the law and so prevents them from doing so.

However, a third purpose of punishment lies, perhaps, in society's desire for retribution, which basically means revenge. In other words, don't we feel that a wrongdoer should suffer for his misdeeds?

The form of punishment should also be considered. On the one hand, some believe that we should "make the punishment fit the crime". Those who steal from others should be deprived of their own property to ensure that criminals are left in no doubt that crime doesn't pay. For those who attack others corporal punishment should be used. Murderers should be subject to the principle "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" and automatically receive the death penalty.

On the other hand, it is said that such views are unreasonable, cruel and barbaric and that we should show a more humane attitude to punishment

and try to understand why a person commits a crime and how society has failed to enable him to live a respectable, law abiding life.


Mark the following sentences as True or False. Correct the false statements.


a. To reform the offender means to warn him of the danger of breaking the law.

b. To rehabilitate the offender means to take revenge on him.

c. Punishment as a deterrent means correcting the offender's moral attitudes and antisocial behaviour.

d. Punishing the offenders society wants to take revenge on him.

e. To assist the offender to return to normal life means to rehabilitate him.

f. Some people believe that punishment should fit the crime.

g. Other people believe that "an eye for an eye principle" is cruel and bar≠baric.





Task I

Read and translate the text.


Killing a Policeman

In 1952 two youths in Mitcham, London, decided to rob a dairy. They were Christopher Craig, age 16, and Derek William Bentley, 19. During the robbery they were disturbed by Sidney Miles, a policeman. Craig produced the gun and killed the policeman. At that time Britain still had the death penalty for certain types of murder, including murder during a robbery. Because Craig was under 18, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Bentley, who had never touched the gun, was over 18. He was hanged in 1953. The case was quoted by opponents of capital punishment, which was abolished in 1965.


Read the text once again to answer the questions.


a. What type of crime is described in the story?

b. How old were the robbers?

c. What happened during the robbery?

d. Who killed a policeman?

e. How was the murderer punished?

f. Who was sentenced to capital punishment?

g. Why was not the murderer sentenced to death penalty?

h. What do you think about the sentence?

i. If you had been the judge what sentence would you have given to Derek?


Task II. Read the following texts and say if punishment is appropriate for each of the following crimes.


In1976 a drunk walked into a supermarket. When the manager asked him to leave, the drunk assaulted him, knocking out a tooth. A policeman who arrived and tried to stop the fight had his jaw broken. The drunk was fined $10.


In June 1980 Lady Isabel Barnett, a well-known TV personality was convicted of stealing a tin of tuna fish and a carton of cream, total value 87p, from a small shop. The case was given enormous publicity. She was fined $75 and had to pay $200 towards the cost of the case. A few days later she killed herself.





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