A brief write-up on the different forms of punishment for crimes ranging from second degree misdemeanor to felony followed by various judicial systems across the world.
After the completion of the trial, the court sentences the guilty to a punishment which is directly proportional to the severity of crime committed by him. The sentencing usually differs from one jurisdiction to another. A felony, for instance, which may amount to capital punishment according to the judicial system of a particular country, may only amount to life imprisonment in another. That being said, punishment is a broad concept, which is open to several interpretations. However, at the end of the day, everything comes down to a same objective: to ensure that justice prevails in the society.
What are the Different Forms of Punishment?
When found guilty of a particular crime, the person is sentenced in accordance to the law of the land. He may be imprisoned, sent on probation, sentenced to community service, or slapped with a fined. Though not as common as these methods, capital punishment (for serious crimes) is also in practice in several countries around the world, including democracies like the United States and India.
Imprisonment or incarceration, wherein the person is put in jail as a lawful punishment, is perhaps one of the most common punishments is the world. Retribution, i.e., the act of correcting a person for his misconduct, is the main purpose of imprisonment. Besides this, it also serves other purposes like deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation. The term, or the period, that the convict has to spend in the prison depends on several factors; most prominent ones being the area of jurisdiction and severity of the crime. Even though it is one of the most common forms of punishment, even imprisonment has been subjected to criticism, as a result of incidents wherein people falsely accused of a crime had to spend life term in prison.
Probation is most often used in lieu of imprisonment. A person is sentenced to probation for misdemeanors as well as a felony of a lesser degree. In some cases the convict may have to spend a part of his sentence in the prison. The person on probation is supposed to abide by the probation conditions set by the court. For instance, he is restricted from possessing weapons or moving out of the area of jurisdiction. The probation officer is assigned the task to ensure that the person follows these rules properly. If required, the court can change its orders and send the convict back to the prison.
Fine and Restitution
Though both involve paying a particular sum of money, there is a difference between the two. Fine is supposed to be paid by the convict to the government, while restitution is supposed to be paid by the convict as a compensation to the affected party. This form of punishment is generally given when the judge is convinced that the convict is not a threat to the society. In case of a fine, it can either be given individually or along with a specific period of imprisonment. If required, the court can also confiscate the property of the convict, especially when the crime is serious and the person convicted is in no position of paying the fine.
A form of alternative sentencing, community service requires the convict to work for the society, either partly or entirely, in lieu of the sanction or fine imposed on him. Generally, a person is sentenced to community service for varying degrees of misdemeanor, or for a non-violent felony, though in rare cases. The person may have to get involved in a specific activity related to the crime. For instance, a person held for possession of banned substance may have to join a group working to create awareness about the hazards of the substance abuse. Such form of punishment is most often given to famous people with significant public appearance, as the law believes that allowing a celebrity to do community service will result in some good to the society.
Capital punishment, also referred to as the death penalty, is by far the most severe form of punishment. A person may be sentenced to death for crimes like murder, homicide, rape, etc., depending on the provisions in the law of the land. The most important objectives of capital punishment are deterrence, i.e., conveying a message that such acts will not be tolerated in the society, and incapacitation, i.e., making sure that the person doesn’t repeat such heinous action/s. The different methods used to carry out death penalty executions today include hanging, electrocution, lethal injection, and firing squad. Inclusion of capital punishment as a part of the judicial process has been a subject of debate since quite some time now. While some argue that it is absolutely immoral act on the part of the system, others feel it is necessary to establish a crime free society.
Basically, punishment is given to an individual to make him repent, ensure justice to the victim, and set an example for the rest of the society. If punishment serves even one of these purposes, then sentencing is a necessity.