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Types of Punishments


The development of prisons was a result of the need to create fear which was essential to enable authorities to deter crime. Crime is punished by upholding good conduct in the community. The political philosophers of the enlightenment formed the new idea of using Imprisonment as a form of punishment in 18th-century Europe. The philosophers believed that the problem of crime by men was a result of the poor use of power by the state and not from the sinful nature of men (VerstehenVideo, 2011). The American civic leaders felt that their new republic was an excellent platform to try new ideas that had developed. Since the philosophers felt that people had to be led by reason and treated with respect, Imprisonment emerged as a punishment.

The primary goal of Imprisonment as a form of punishment is to deter potential offenders from committing crimes. The fear of being incarcerated is seen as a powerful deterrent, as it can prevent people from committing crimes in the first place. The concept of retribution or “eye for an eye” justice is also used as a form of deterrence, as the punishment should be equal in severity to the crime committed. By having punishments that fit the crime, the justice system sends a message to potential offenders that crime does not pay and that the consequences of their actions will be severe. This theory has been used throughout history to justify Imprisonment as a punishment for certain crimes. Additionally, it is used as a form of incapacitation because it was aimed at controlling the offenders and preventing them from offending again.

The stated goals of the punishment of Imprisonment are to protect society from offenders, to deter potential offenders from committing crimes, and to rehabilitate offenders so they can return to society as productive citizens (VerstehenVideo, 2011). These goals are achievable if the right conditions and resources are in place to support prisoners and help them reintegrate into society.

Corporal punishment

This punishment comes from the Latin phrase “corpus punire,” which means “to punish the body.” Corporal punishment is a means of discipline and control and a form of punishment in many cultures and societies throughout history. The related theory is that physical pain or discomfort can be used for deterrence, and the goal of this punishment is to discourage further misbehaviour by teaching the individual the consequences of their actions (Morris & Rothman, 1998). Some corporal punishments included getting flogged or enclosure in an iron maiden which felt like being buried alive (NFB Canada, 2015). The people, especially women accused of being witches, had to confess because they could not bear the pain of torture. Corporal punishment ensures that other people avoid involvement in actions considered witchcraft making deterrence possible. In the modern era, corporal punishment is not encouraged because it is seen as an act against human rights.

The stated goal of corporal punishment is to correct negative behaviour by instilling a sense of fear of punishment. This punishment is a way to discourage children from engaging in destructive behaviours. Whether this goal is achievable is a matter of debate. Some argue that it is an effective way to modify behaviour, while others argue that it can have unintended consequences and is not a lasting solution. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide if they believe corporal punishment is an effective way to modify behaviour.

Death Penalties

Various theories and historical contexts over the centuries have influenced the development of the death penalty as a punishment. Proponents of the death penalty argue that it is a crime deterrent, as the fear of execution can prevent people from committing serious offences. They also argue that it is necessary to ensure justice and to punish people who have committed the most serious crimes.

In the middle Ages, the Catholic Church developed its theory of justice and retribution, including capital punishment. This theory relied on the belief that God was the ultimate judge and that justice came from His divine will. The Church believed that anyone who interfered with God’s will deserved capital punishment and those midwives were highly involved. The Church accused the midwives of interfering with the women’s bodies and giving birth control work that belonged to God (NFB Canada, 2015). The punishment seemed to prevent more crimes against the Church hence working as deterrence. It was evident during the burning times when women accused of witchcraft were executed as criminals. Deaths were conducted by drowning and burning the individuals accused of witchcraft (NFB Canada, 2015). In the early modern period, the development of the death penalty was heavily influenced by Enlightenment thinking. Enlightenment thinkers argued that the death penalty was a necessary form of retribution and punishment for the most serious offences. They believed that capital punishment was a deterrent to crime and a way to maintain social order.

Use of Fines

The concept of fines as a form of punishment has a long history, dating back to ancient Greece and Rome. In those societies, fines punished and discouraged criminal behaviour, as well as generating revenue for the state (VerstehenVideo, 2011). In the middle Ages, fines were a form of retribution for offences, with the amount of the fine corresponding to the severity of the offence.

The modern concept of fines as a punishment was developed in the late 18th century, influenced by the Enlightenment philosophy of utilitarianism. This philosophy argued that punishments should achieve the greatest possible good for the most significant number of people and that the punishment should be proportional to the offence (Wilf, 1989). This philosophy led to the idea of fines being imposed for offences to incentivize people to obey the law and discourage criminal behaviour without requiring lengthy prison sentences or other forms of punishment. This idea was further developed in the 19th century and has evolved into the concept of fines as a form of punishment used in many legal systems today.

The goal of fines as a form of punishment is to discourage criminal behaviour and incentivize people to obey the law. This goal is achievable through using fines as a form of punishment, as the threat of a fine can act as a deterrent for potential offenders. Additionally, fines can suit the severity of the offence, allowing for a more proportional punishment that is more likely to be effective.


NFB Canada. “The Burning Times.” YouTube, NFB, 2015, Accessed 19 Jan. 2023.

Morris, N., & Rothman, D. J. (Eds.). (1998). The Oxford history of the prison: The practice of punishment in Western society. Oxford University Press, USA.

VerstehenVideo. “Eastern State Penitentiary (1998).” YouTube, 2011, Accessed 19 Jan. 2023.

Wilf, S. R. (1989). Anatomy and punishment in late eighteenth-century New York. Journal of Social History22(3), 507–530.


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