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Should criminal sentencing be oriented towards punishment or rehabilitation?

There are basically two lines of thought on what the goal of criminal sentencing (this means after guilt has been proven) should be: justice for the victim, which is usually used to mean punishment for the perpetrator, and rehabilitation for the perpetrator, which means working to make him a functioning member of society. Examples of policies favoring justice for the victim would include the death penalty, as it precludes the possibility of rehabilitation, and life sentences without the possibility of parole, for the same reason. Examples of policies favoring rehabilitation for the perpetrator include in-prison education for inmates, because the aim is to prepare them to find a job on the outside, reducing their dependence on crime and hopefully make them functioning members of society, and parole systems, because they allow for the possibility that if a convict can reform his ways, and has the possibility of functioning well on the outside, he should be released. There are of course, various compromises within those philosophies. One such mixture of philosophies can be seen in the minimum time requirements for parole; which state that inmates granted the possibility of parole must first serve a set number of years out of their sentence before they can be considered for parole. The idea of these minimum time requirements are to provide a deterrent while still allowing for rehabilitation. However critics say that there can be no compromise between these ideas, because if there is any immutable punishment, that contradicts the idea that if the convict is rehabilitated he is released, favoring a deterrent, which has nothing to do with the individual's possibility. So: do you think that these two concepts can exist symbiotically? If so, how? If not, which do you think we should abide by? As a side-note, all my examples are from U.S. law. I would be very interested to hear examples of these concepts from wherever you live.


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  • Oct 13 2012: Depends on the crime, some mistakes in life that are made cannot be fixed.

    How do you rehabilitate someone that committed murder? Is it even possible.
    • Oct 17 2012: http://www.cyc-net.org/features/viewpoints/c-steenkillers.html

      Are you precluding the possibility that Kevin Hughes might be rehabilitated? This is one example, but we all know the multitude of hypotheticals and real life examples like Kevin that could be used. To name just a few:
      What about someone who committed murder while under the influence; so he was not in full control of his mental faculties and decision making proccess?

      Someone whose violence was a result abuse?

      a crime of passion, rather than deliberate planning and intent?

      Or, to introduce one that I think is new, what about someone who accidentally killed someone during the commission of a separate crime? Most states in the U.S. (I believe all of them but without being sure I'm not going to state that) allow someone to be charged with murder if the death was a result of another crime they were committing. A good example of this is an old lady having a heart attack during a bank robbery. The robber can now be charged with that woman's murder. Or if a security guard tried to shoot the robber but missed and killed a bystander, the robber can again be charged with that bystander's murder.

      Are you saying that this bank robber, or any of the examples listed above can't be rehabilitated?

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