Essay on Crimes and Punishment

Outline:

  • Introduction
  • Aim of punishment
  • The role of Islam in eradicating sense of guilty
  • Solitary confinement
  • Unjust punishments
  • A psychological view of punishment
  • Ineffectiveness and effectiveness of punishment

Crime is an evil against society for which the man is punished by the laws made by a man. It is generally believed that good and evil lie embedded together in human nature and it has been seen often in actual life that many good souls commit evil deeds simply because evil in them gets the upper hand over the good in them. The causes of human vices may be many. For example, some persons submit to pleasure while others cannot endure pain and a few others lack the strength of purpose or even prudence in the choice of actions.

It is generally believed that evil is always punished whether in the form of bodily sufferings or mental agonies or even in the form of complete ruin and death. But let us not forget that it is unjust to inflict punishment where law fails to weigh in the scales a person’s criminality and the suffering he has already undergone for that. A punishment that is not aimed at reforming the offender would turn him a confirmed criminal, one cannot contradict. That “Justice is a machine that when someone has once given it the starting push, rolls on of itself and the defaulter is ground to pieces under this machine for an act which at the worst was one of weakness”. So we must see how far and in what circumstances the accused is really guilty of an offense. There must be some flexibility in the law in which there is a scale for the Psychoanalysis of the convict. Unfortunately, there is no provision under the law to treat a prisoner of “Weak Character” as a patient rather than a criminal.

One of the greatest services that Islam has rendered to humanity is delivering it from unnecessary and imaginary sin. Talking the Quran says, “The nature of God in which He has made man”. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) elucidated this in his famous saying that even child is born with natural endowments, which if kept pure and intact would lead him to Islam, but it is the parents that make him a Jew, or a Christian or a Magian, which are deviations from the religion of Nature. No doubt, the difference in the lives of men arises from the balance of good and evil in their lives. But true repentance wipes away all sins. The Holy Quran declares that “Despair is a sign of unbelief’. According to the Holy Quran, “All sins can be wiped away by good deeds and repentance, except the sin of disbelief in the reality of the ideal, which contradicts belief in itself. It is very unfortunate that in our modern society, criminals are dealt or treated like dogs. Their power of resistance is broken by solitary confinement and unhealthy atmosphere, and naturally, when they come out of the prison, they are quite unfit to cope with life. Their will power is broken and they easily succumb to temptation. So it has become an established fact that solitary confinement instead of reforming the prisoner makes them desperate. A thoroughly disgraced convict feels extremely humiliated when he moves about in the society. Therefore, it is the basic need of the society to find out ways and means to rehabilitate such a person to an honourable place in the society so that he may become a useful citizen and show repentance over his past Punishment as a device for the control of behavior has had a long, though not an honorable history. Society uses it as a means of preventing its members from violating both its formal and its written laws, although its confidence in the effectiveness of this technique is not great. There is little enough justification for confidence, for time and again the threat of punishment has failed to keep the members of society in line.

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At numerous times in the history of civilization, the punishments prescribed for various crimes have been most severe. As recently as the 19th Century, for example, long years of punishments and even death were meted out for the theft of nothing more than a loaf of bread. Yet despite such inhuman penalties, transgression occurred. As a deterrent to another world war, we have legally prosecuted the leaders of the aggressor nation as criminals. We have punished them severely for their acts. Even so great nations do not sleep easily for we are not confident that the threat of punishment will deter other men or other nations from waging another war.

Psychologists themselves originally accepted the popular belief in the value of punishment the belief that is expressed so dogmatically in the adage “spare the rod and spoil the child”. Experimental work of punishment is not consistent. Sometimes it does not. This seems to imply that punishment is not a single psychological mechanism which works in a single fashion but rather that its effectiveness will be a function of the various conditions in which it is used. If we consider some of the factors that may generally influence the effectiveness of punishment, we shall recall the usual situation in which punishment is brought into play. Generally, it is simply one in which the organism has responded to a stimulus in a way which we wish will not recur. In other words, we are dealing with a stimulus-response connection, which we hope to destroy by punishment. This connection may be one that has been strongly learned and because of its strength is likely to show great resistance to destructive efforts. Thus, one or two punishments may not prevent the response from occurring when the stimulus is again presented.

Actually, these punishments may decrease the probability that the response will occur, but we do not measure the response with sufficient precision. To be aware of this, we wrongly expect Rome to be built in a day. We give up the punishment, thinking it has failed us. Thus sometimes, we may erroneously decide that the psychological mechanism has failed, whereas the failure lies in the fact that we did not apply it long enough. One reason for the ineffectiveness of punishment is that it usually takes place long after the response that it punishes. Let us take a not unusual of a child who shortly before dinner opens a cupboard door and takes a piece of candy from a forbidden box which he knows is kept there for the guests. He pops the chocolate into his mouth, but telltale smudges are left on his lips. His misdemeanor is discovered and punishment follows. Let us now consider the entire situation. To the stimulus of hunger pangs and the sight of the cupboard door, he made the response of opening the door and the box, and of taking and eating the candy. The candy acts as a reward and that particular stimulus-response connection is reinforced. Later he may be punished for this same response, which just previously has been reinforced. Note the time relationship. The reward was immediate but the punishment was delayed. So we recall that the sooner the consequences follow an act, the greater the learning effect. This fact would serve to give the rewarding effect of the act greater power than the punishing effect. This punishment frequently is required to work against the positive reinforcement that is intrinsic in the very commission of the act because the punishment almost always comes later in time than the reward and so its effectiveness is lessened.

The thief, who, in a hold-up, obtains money and spends it, has his anti-social actions reinforced. Even if later on he should be committed to prison for his behavior – punished that is his anti-social action may have been strengthened by the reinforcement received. If crime truly did not pay, then criminal acts would be extinguished and eradicated.

Another and unfortunate characteristic of punishment is that often it tells the victims only what not to do but does not tell what to do. It does not build up by the process of reinforcement a strong positive way of reacting. It builds up only avoidance of a certain way of acting. These are some of the possible reasons why punishment may be ineffective. How then, may punishment operate when it is effective?

As we understand it today, punishment seems to operate in the same manner as the avoidance learning. Behaving in a certain fashion leads to painful consequences and we tend to move away from these painful consequences. At the same time, through a process like conditioning, the stimuli that have been associated with the painful consequences acquire the tendency to produce anxiety reactions. Since we tend to escape from an environment that produces anxiety, we tend to make a different response than the one, which has been associated with the pain of punishment. This punishment works not by weakening the original habit but by substituting a conflicting response to the same stimulus.

Different people employ different methods to prevent the reoccurrence of some action, which a person or a society disapproves of. For example, the dimension of Parental behavior to the vigor of punishment varies from mild slaps to sound spankings and from deprivation of highly valued activities to deprivation of ones of minor worth in the offender’s esteem. Some people employ words, which employ to the child that his action has caused them to lose some of their affection for the offender. This technique has proved a very effective manner of control. However, we must keep in view that the object of punishment is to see that the offender realizes his mistake, crime or sin and in future avoids to indulge in such actions. So the approach should be basically a corrective one.

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