Cesare Beccaria & Punishment Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:24:05
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Cesare Beccaria was an Italian jurist, enlightenment thinker, and philosopher. In 1794, he wrote On Crimes and Punishment. In this book, he talked against torture and the death penalty, but he was most famous for laying a foundation of penology, which deals with the repression of criminal activities and punishment of crimes committed. Beccaria was most famous for declaring that a punishment should fit the crime. He meant several things by this, but most importantly was his two main points. This first way he said that the punishment should fit the crime is that the severity of punishment should parallel the severity of harm resulting from the crime. This did not mean that if someone was a murderer, that they should be put to death. Beccaria publicly condemned the death penalty because he said that the state does not possess the right to take lives, and that it is not a very useful form of punishment. He stood for a more deterrent function of the penal system. When he said it must match the damages of the offense and parallel the harm of the crime, he was more referring along the lines of punishment and incarceration.

His second point was that the punishment should be severe enough to outweigh the pleasure of committing the crime. For example, someone might look at sexual assault as pleasurable, therefore the punishment needs to be severe enough for that person to think, Wow, the punishment is harsh, its not worth committing this crime. If this wasnt the case, a rational person would weigh the gain with the consequence, and determine that the crime is worth committing because if thats only my punishment, then why not. People speed because speeding tickets are simply fines, if you were to be booked and incarcerated, Im sure people would speed less. Not saying that this is how it should be, its just the most blatant example. The problem with this second point is that it only applies to rational thinking people, and it doesnt really apply at all to a violent criminal with a psychological imbalance and is mentally handicapped who doesnt think things through before they do them.

Luckily, this is why we, in the United States, have trials; because Beccarias theory, all though it does make sense, cannot apply to every single criminal and will not deter every type of crime or offender. This makes one think on how our current laws and punishments line up with the theory of Beccaria.; especially in the terms of drug laws. 55% of criminals in federal prisons and 20% in state are all from drug related crimes. This is an extremely high number of people for a simply, usually victimless offense. If the offenders only damage done is to him or herself, then is it completely necessary that the county spends on average, $28,000 a year per criminal in the system?

At what point do we draw the line and see that privatization of prisons is making people rich because were putting far too many criminals in prisons as opposed to other forms of punishment. Would it not make more sense for a commiter of a victimless crime be sentenced to something like parole or house arrest where the only person theyre responsible for is themselves, and they can carry on their every day life instead of being exposed to more hardened criminals and having to conform to prison society? This leads one to question numerous things such as the effectiveness of punishments like the death penalty along with the effectiveness of other forms of punishment and say do these really match the crime applied to them?

Intro. to Criminal Justice 5th edition, Bohm/Haley
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Crimes_and_Punishments#cite_ref-2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesare_Beccaria

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