5 Theories of Punishment for Criminal Offenses You Must Know!

“For every offense of which any individual is accused there shall be a separate charge, and every such charge shall be tried separately.”-This is the dictum that lays the foundation of laws and remedies.

What are remedies in a criminal case?

A remedy can be understood as to how a right is imposed on an individual found guilty of committing a wrongful act, as recognized by society.

The law of remedies pertains to the kind of relief the plaintiff in the case is entitled to when the guilt of the defendant is proved in the court of law.

Remedies in a criminal case are quite different from those in a civil case because while civil remedies are for compensation, criminal remedies are meant to punish the offender.

Some common types of remedies in a criminal case are:

  • Imprisonment
  • House arrest
  • Community supervision
  • Fines
  • Restitution
  • Community service

Criminal remedies are known as sentences. The nature of a criminal sentence in a specific case is based on the type of crime committed, the motive of the crime, and the theories of punishments.

What are the theories of punishment?

Theories of punishments are concepts that determine the type of punishment to be meted out for a specific type of crime. The severity of the crime is considered and the motive is also an important factor while determining the type of punishment meted out.

Five theories of punishment are:

  • Deterrent theory:

    The purpose of a deterrent punishment to show the futility of the crime committed and send a message to others in society. An example of deterrent punishments is capital punishments.

  • Preventive theory:

    These punishments are more severe because their purpose is to create fear in the minds of the offenders and disable them from committing such crimes. Preventive theory of punishment focuses on:

    • Creating fear in the minds of all prospective offenders.
    • Disabling the offender from committing any other crime.
    • Transforming the offender so that he does not commit such crimes in the future.

    Examples of preventive punishments are fines, imprisonments, etc.

  • Reformative theory:

    The punishments meted out to offenders according to the reformative theory are based on strengthening the character of the offender so that he does not yield to temptations to commit crimes. The focus is on curing the mental state of the offender. The reformative theory advocates rehabilitative and reformative techniques to transform the offender. The offenders are empowered so that they look for ways of employment or self-employment. These boost their economic status thereby eliminating the prime motive to commit a crime.

    Examples of punishments based on reformative theory are jail, probation, vocational training, etc.

  • Compensation theory:

    The objective of this theory is not just to punish the offender but also to compensate the victim of the crime.

  • Retributive Theory:

    The punishments based on the retributive theory of crime address the primitive spirit of vengeance in the offender. These punishments also set an example to society at large that “criminals shall pay for their crime irrespective of the cause for committing the crime.”

An example of a punishment based on retributive theory is the death sentence for a murderer.