Branch of criminology dealing with prison management and the treatment of offenders. Penological studies have sought to clarify the ethical bases of punishment, along with the motives and purposes of society in inflicting it; differences throughout history and between nations in penal laws and procedures; and the social consequences of the policies in force at a given time. Influential historical works have included Cesare Beccaria's On Crimes and Punishments (1764), Jeremy Bentham's “Panopticon” scheme (circa 1800), Cesare Lombroso's Crime (1876), and Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish (1975).

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Penology (from the Latin poena, "punishment") comprises penitentiary science: that concerned with the processes devised and adopted for the punishment, repression, and prevention of crime, and the treatment of prisoners.

Contemporary penology concerns itself mainly with prison management and criminal rehabilitation. The word seldom applies to theories and practices of punishment in less formal environments such as parenting.

This theory of punishment is based on the notion that punishment is to be inflicted on offenders so as to reform them, or rehabilitate them so as to make their re-integration into society easier. Punishments that are in accordance with this theory are community service, probation orders, and those which entail guidance and aftercare of the offender.

This theory is founded on the belief that one cannot inflict a severe punishment of imprisonment and expect the offender to be reformed and able to re-integrate into society upon release. Although the importance of inflicting punishment on those persons who breach the law, so as to maintain social order, is retained, the importance of rehabilitation is also given priority.

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