Significant theories are now directed to be able to explain or even justify the goals of punishment, criminally. These theories serve as basis for observing deterrence, restraint, retribution, rehabilitation and even restoration. There are times wherein punishment tends to advance these goals. On the other hand, there are punishments which promote a certain goal yet violating or can be quite conflicting with another. These are things that a criminal defense lawyer must put into consideration.
Supporters of the deterrence theory believe that when punishment is given to a person who is guilty of a crime, pain inflicted will discourage the offender to commit the crime again. If the offender specifically reflects the theory, then he or she is referred to as a special deterrence. The effect that a punishment serves as a threat or public example and deters other people, aside from the offender, to commit similar mistakes is known as general deterrence.
There are those who believe that a punishment’s goal is to restraint the offender. A convicted person who is executed, confined or incapacitated will no longer think of repeating the crime which may harm the society. He offender will no longer have the opportunity or ability to do other more crimes.
This theory states that punishment should be imposed on the accused party so that society may have the chance to air out anger towards him or her and think of having vengeance exactly upon the criminal. The supporters of this theory consider punishment as a device to ensure that offender will pay for certain misconducts done in the past and not to anticipate future crime coming from the society.
Literally, punishment is aimed at rehabilitating an offender. The supporters of this theory seek to avoid crime by giving the convicted persons treatment and education which are said to be necessary in eliminating any thought of criminal tendencies. Furthermore, skills are being enhanced due to activities that promote productivity to the members of the society. This is a positive theory that teaches offenders on how to spend more time expressing oneself through being productive or just from learning.
A victim-oriented theory, rehabilitation is an approach that focuses on compensation or restitution for the victims of a crime. Rather than focusing on the criminal’s punishment, it tends to restore the victim’s capacity to live a normal life through the creation of constructive roles during criminal processes. The promoters of this theory strongly believe that victims having this kind of involvement can be alleviated from pain and traumatic experiences thus promoting the healing process and facilitating a healthy reconciliation with the community.
Conflicts based on different theories have a great effect on the goals of the criminal justice process. Justifications representing criminal punishment are not considered to be mutually exclusive in a sense that a particular punishment advances multiple goals all at the same time.
Fact is, there isn’t a theory mentioned above which addresses all goals of the criminal law. A criminal defense lawyer must know that combinations in the theories greatly affect the ideas and decisions of legislators, the judges and jurors. It may also affect decisions of parole authorities to impose power in releasing prisoners.
The important thing is that, one must understand the different theories in order to become more knowledgeable about the case at hand.