chapter  22
21 Pages

What role does punishment play in deterring crime? Practical, theoretical and ethical perspectives

BySarah Marsden

Punishment is a concept of great practical and symbolic significance (Garland 2006), about which there are complex and consequential political, sociological and moral debates (Garland 1991). Statesanctioned punishment has evolved considerably down the ages, moving from the gruesome ‘blood sanctions’ of medieval Europe, to the use of imprisonment and the modern-day penitentiary. The nature of punishment has therefore seen a move from a mother convicted of infanticide being buried alive and impaled, to the present-day focus on loss of freedom as punishment (Langbein 1976). Some argue the decline in public punishment in the seventeenth century has been ascribed to an exhibition of humanitarian thinking; however, others, among them Foucault, argue that the aim was actually one of social control to prevent the pain and revolt of the masses (Foucault 1977; Spierenburg 1998). Some propose that this application of control continues, with contemporary society seeing an integral system of restraints built into its fabric (Rose 2000).