Infliction of physical pain upon a person's body as punishment for a crime or infraction. Such penalties include beating, branding, mutilation, blinding, and the use of the stock and pillory. The term also denotes the physical disciplining of children in the schools and at home. From ancient times through the 18th century, corporal punishment was commonly used in instances that did not call for capital punishment, ostracism, or exile. But the growth of humanitarian ideals during the Enlightenment and afterward led to its gradual abandonment, and today it has been almost entirely replaced in the West by imprisonment or other nonviolent penalties. Several international conventions on human rights prohibit it. Beatings and other corporeal punishments continue to be administered in the prison systems of many countries. Whipping and even amputation remain prescribed punishments in some Middle Eastern and Asian societies. Corporal punishment of schoolchildren is still sanctioned in many states.
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Execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law of a criminal offense. Capital punishment for murder, treason, arson, and rape was widely employed in ancient Greece, and the Romans also used it for a wide range of offenses. It also has been sanctioned at one time or another by most of the world's major religions. In 1794 the U.S. state of Pennsylvania became the first jurisdiction to restrict the death penalty to first-degree murder, and in 1846 Michigan abolished capital punishment for all murders and other common crimes. In 1863 Venezuela became the first country to abolish capital punishment for all crimes. Portugal was the first European country to abolish the death penalty (1867). By the mid-1960s some 25 countries had abolished the death penalty for murder. During the last third of the 20th century, the number of abolitionist countries increased more than threefold. Despite the movement toward abolition, many countries have retained capital punishment, and some have extended its scope. In the U.S., the federal government and roughly three-fourths of the states retain the death penalty, and death sentences are regularly carried out in China, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Iran. Supporters of the death penalty claim that life imprisonment is not an effective deterrent to criminal behaviour. Opponents maintain that the death penalty has never been an effective deterrent, that errors sometimes lead to the execution of innocent persons, and that capital punishment is imposed inequitably, mostly on the poor and on racial minorities.
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Punishment is the practice of imposing something unpleasant or aversive on a person or animal, usually in response to disobedient or morally wrong behavior.
Colloquial use of to punish for "to inflict heavy damage or loss" is first recorded in 1801, originally in boxing; for punishing as "hard-hitting" is from 1811.
The most common applications are in legal and similarly 'regulated' contexts, being the infliction of some kind of pain or loss upon a person for a misdeed, i.e. for transgressing a law or command (including prohibitions) given by some authority (such as an educator, employer or supervisor, public or private official).
Punishments are applied for various purposes, most generally, to encourage and enforce proper behavior as defined by society or family. Criminals are punished judicially, by fines, corporal punishment or custodial sentences such as prison; detainees risk further punishments for breaches of internal rules. Children, pupils and other trainees may be punished by their educators or instructors (mainly parents, guardians, or teachers, tutors and coaches).
Slaves, domestic and other servants used to be punishable by their masters. Employees can still be subject to a contractual form of fine or demotion. Most hierarchical organizations, such as military and police forces, or even churches, still apply quite rigid internal discipline, even with a judicial system of their own (court martial, canonical courts).
Punishment may also be applied on moral, especially religious, grounds, as in penance (which is voluntary) or imposed in a theocracy with a religious police (as in a strict Islamic state like Iran or under the Taliban) or (though not a true theocracy) by Inquisition.
Gradually there would arise the idea of proportionate punishment, of which the characteristic type is an eye for an eye. The second stage was punishment by individuals under the control of the state, or community; in the third stage, with the growth of law, the state took over the primitive function and provided itself with the machinery of justice for the maintenance of public order. Henceforward crimes are against the state, and the exaction of punishment by the wronged individual is illegal (compare Lynch Law). Even at this stage the vindictive or retributive character of punishment remains, but gradually, and specially after the humanist movement under thinkers like Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham, new theories begin to emerge. Two chief trains of thought have combined in the condemnation of primitive theory and practice. On the one hand the retributive principle itself has been very largely superseded by the protective and the reformative; on the other punishments involving bodily pain have become objectionable to the general sense of society. Consequently corporal and even capital punishment occupy a far less prominent position, and tend everywhere to disappear. It began to be recognized also that stereotyped punishments, such as belong to penal codes, fail to take due account of the particular condition of an offence and the character and circumstances of the offender. A fixed fine, for example, operates very unequally on rich and poor.
Modern theories date from the 18th century, when the humanitarian movement began to teach the dignity of the individual and to emphasize his rationality and responsibility. The result was the reduction of punishment both in quantity and in severity, the improvement of the prison system, and the first attempts to study the psychology of crime and to distinguish between classes of criminals with a view to their improvement (see criminology, crime, juvenile delinquency).
These latter problems are the province of criminal anthropology and criminal sociology, sciences so called because they view crime as the outcome of anthropological viz. social conditions. The law breaker is himself a product of social evolution and cannot be regarded as solely responsible for his disposition to transgress. Habitual crime is thus to be treated as a disease. Punishment can, therefore, be justified only insofar as it either protects society by removing temporarily or permanently one who has injured it, or acting as a deterrent, or aims at the moral regeneration of the criminal. Thus the retributive theory of punishment with its criterion of justice as an end in itself gives place to a theory which regards punishment solely as a means to an end, utilitarian or moral, according as the common advantage or the good of the criminal is sought.
Michel Foucault describes in detail the evolution of punishment from hanging, drawing and quartering of medieval times to the modern systems of fines and prisons. He sees a trend in criminal punishment from vengeance by the King to a more practical, utilitarian concern for deterrence and rehabilitation. A particularly harsh punishment is sometimes said to be draconian, after Draco, the lawgiver of the classical polis of Athens. But as the adjective Spartan still testifies, its wholly militarized rival Sparta was the harshest a state of law can be on its own citizens, e.g. crypteia (including flogging for being caught when stealing as ordered). In operant conditioning, punishment is the presentation of a stimulus contingent on a response which results in a decrease in response strength (as evidenced by a decrease in the frequency of response). The effectiveness of punishment in suppressing the response depends on many factors, including the intensity of the stimulus and the consistency with which the stimulus is presented when the response occurs. In parenting, additional factors that increase the effectiveness of punishment include a verbal explanation of the reason for the punishment and a good relationship between the parent and the child.
Examples of punishments imposed by educators (parents, guardians or teachers etc.; traditions differ greatly in time, place and cultural sphere; some are considered illegal abuse in certain countries) include:
Non-corporal forms of punishments for children have come under criticism in recent times. Arguments against non-violent modification of behavior include the issue of ethics, and whether one's will should be forced on children. Positive parenting and Taking Children Seriously are non-punitive alternatives to modifying behavior.
The offender’s ability to commit crime can be physically removed in several ways. This can include cutting the hands off a thief, as well as other crude punishments. The castration of offenders is another punishment that can be justified by incapacitation, furthered by recent media coverage in Britain of the proposed chemical castration of sexual offenders. Incapacitation, in this sense, can include any number of punishments including taking away the driving license off a dangerous driver but can also include capital punishment.
Despite this, incapacitation is predominately thought of as incarceration. Imprisonment has the effect of confining prisoners, physically preventing them from committing crimes against those outside, i.e. protecting the community. Before the widespread use of imprisonment, banishment was used as a form of incapacitation. Nowadays courts have a flexible array of sentence options available to them that can restrict offender’s movements, and subsequently their ability to commit crime. Football hooligans can, for example, be required to attend centres during football matches.
Selective incapacitation is a modified form of incapacitation that rationalises the practice of giving only dangerous and persistent offenders long, and in some case indefinite, prison sentences. The approach adopts a utilitarian viewpoint that regards the protection, and subsequent happiness, of the majority as justification of giving excessive and indefinite prison sentences. There is, however, strong moral opposition to this concept.
To act as a measure of prevention to those who are contemplating criminal activity.
Some libertarians argue that full restoration or restitution on an individualistic basis is all that is ever just, and that this is compatible with both retributivism and a utilitarian degree of deterrence.
Retribution sets an important standard on punishment — the transgressor must get what he deserves, but no more. Therefore, a thief put to death is not retribution; a murderer put to death is. Adam Smith, who is credited as the father of Capitalism, wrote extensively about punishment. In his view, an important reason for punishment is not only deterrence, but also satisfying the resentment of the victim. Moreover, in the case of the death penalty, the retribution goes to the dead victim, not his family. (So, to extend Smith's views, a murderer can be spared the death penalty only by the victim's express wish, made when he was alive.) One great difficulty of this approach is that of judging exactly what it is that the transgressor "deserves". For instance, it may be retribution to put a thief to death if he steals a family's only means of livelihood; conversely, mitigating circumstances may lead to the conclusion that the execution of a murderer is not retribution. A specific way to elaborate this concept in the very punishment is the mirror punishment (the more literal applications of "an eye for an eye"), a penal form of 'poetic justice' which reflects the nature or means of the crime in the means of (mainly corporal) punishment.