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Term Paper Sample on Retributive Justice, Incapacitation, and Rehabilitation

Retributive Justice, Incapacitation, and Rehabilitation

                                          Justifications of Criminal Punishment

Criminal punishment is a penalty for individuals who have committed a crime within a given society. Criminal punishment aims at achieving justice for individuals who have been wronged by the perpetrator. Moreover, criminal punishment aims at rehabilitating, restoring, deterring, retribution, and incapacitating individuals who have committed a crime. Mike is 22 years old and has committed several offenses. The natures of his crimes in the past have not been so severe, but the latest one, robbing a convenience store while armed, indicates that he is escalating. Therefore, Mike needs to be held accountable for his actions through retribution, incarceration, and rehabilitation.

Retributive Justice

Retribution theory holds that when individuals break the law, they have to be held accountable. Individuals who cause pain or harm to other members of the community have also to be subjected to punishment offered by law. The theory also stipulates that the punishment should be equal to the crime that the individuals have committed (Wenzel, Okimoto, Feather & Platow, 2008). Retribution aims at ensuring that the individuals who undergo this form of punishment will not repeat the same offense in the future. Moreover, it serves as a warning to other individuals who might want to commit similar crimes.

Retribution is important since it is not revenge but a way of holding individuals accountable for their actions. The law will only punish the wrongs committed by the perpetrators and does not seek further gratification by severely punishing the individuals. There are limits put in place when exercising retributive justice, and the punishment is not personal (Wenzel, Okimoto, Feather, & Platow, 2008). The individuals accused of a crime have to face the law, and impartial judges have to make rulings that do not aim at satisfying their pleasure. Retributive justice does not aim at enjoying the suffering of other individuals.

Mike needs to face his actions so that he can understand that it is wrong to commit crimes. He is a young man with a complicated past, and this might have affected the way he relates to other members of the community. His reliance on drugs in the past could have cost him job opportunities, thus making it difficult for him to make ends meet. Moreover, his inability to hold a job for long has made it hard for him to achieve economic stability and freedom. The fact that he broke into unoccupied buildings indicates that he might be homeless too. He robbed a convenience store to get something to eat since he could not afford to pay for the stuff that he needed. Although Mike has had a tough life, he should be made to understand that he cannot break the law, and retributive justice should be employed.

Retribution will help Mike understand the severity of his actions. Armed robbery is a serious offense, and since he could have hurt other people in the process, he should be made to face the law. The process of retribution will also ensure that Mike understands why he cannot perform the same crimes in the future. If he is incarcerated, he will get to reflect on his actions, and he will not commit the same crimes in the future. Mike’s criminal activities are escalating, and he needs to be made to realize that further escalations will be met with even more severe punishment. Therefore, retribution is the only way that might help Mike end his criminal activities.


Rehabilitation is the process of retraining and educating individuals who commit crimes. The individuals have either undergone incarceration or have been made to be accountable for their actions. Individuals who have committed crimes are trained on how to lead a crime-free life and interact with other members of the community. They are taught life skills that will enable them to be productive members of the community (Maruna, 2011). Rehabilitation occurs after individuals have paid for their crimes and understood why it was wrong for them to commit a crime. Additionally, rehabilitation in criminal justice aims at reducing recidivism rates.

Mike is a repeat offender, and this indicates that he is having a hard time fitting back into the community. Since he has no job, it would be important that he be equipped with skills that will help him to earn a living once he is back in the community. One of the reasons why individuals who have paid for their wrongs carry on with criminal activities when they are back in the community is because they do not get to develop a sense of belonging. They feel that the community shuns them and does not offer them an opportunity to change their behavior. However, through rehabilitation, individuals can be prepared on what to expect once they are back into the community and what to do to help them attain economic stability. Therefore, Mike needs to undergo rehabilitation to acquire skills that will help him to attain economic freedom.


Incapacitation involves limiting individuals’ freedom within a community or sending them to prison when they have committed crimes. Incapacitation aims at protecting members of the community against individuals who might harm them. There are two ways that incapacitation can be applied; prison and community-based service. The severity of crimes committed by individuals determines the time they will be incapacitated (Bruinsma, Elffers, & Keijser, 2004). Moreover, incapacitation aims at deterring individuals from committing crimes.

The severity of Mike’s crime necessitates his incapacitation. His last offense involved armed robbery in which an individual could have been hurt. Incapacitation helps individuals to reflect on their actions and hopefully change their behavior once they are released. Mike needs to be incarcerated for his crime. In prison, he will get to be rehabilitated and imparted with life skills that will help him fit in society once he is released. Moreover, being in prison will deter him from committing crimes once he is released.

Why Other Goals of Capital Punishment Will Not Work

Deterrence is one of the five goals of capital punishment, and it is of the idea that threatening individuals with punishment will prevent them from committing crimes. There are two applications of deterrence, and they include; the understanding that when individuals are punished for crimes they have committed, they will not carry out the same crimes in future and that public knowledge of the punishment for committing crimes will deter people from committing crimes (Weinrib, 2002).

Deterrence will not work in Mike’s situation since he is a repeat offender. Mike has a history of drug abuse, he has broken into empty buildings, and lately, he robbed a convenience store while armed. Mike either is aware of the punishment he will face for breaking the law and does not care, or he is not aware of the punishment that his crimes attract. However, since Mike has had a running with the law in several instances, it would be safe to assume that he is aware that his crimes will be punished. Therefore, threatening Mike with punishment will not prevent him from committing further offenses.

Restoration in criminal justice offers the offenders and the victims an opportunity to sit together and talk about the incident. The victims get to tell the perpetrators how their actions affected them and what they hope to achieve at the end of the meeting. The victims are given the power to decide whether they would want to meet with the individuals who might have caused them pain (Wenzel, Okimoto, Feather, & Platow, 2008). Moreover, restorative justice offers the victims and offenders an opportunity to come to a consensus on what needs to be done to remedy the wrong. Besides, the offenders get an opportunity to apologize for the actions that caused their victims pain and probably learn from their mistakes (Wenzel, Okimoto, Feather, & Platow, 2008). The offenders have to take ownership of their actions for the process to work.

Restoration offers victims an opportunity to be part of the justice system. They not only get to narrate how the ordeal affected their lives, but they are allowed to make demands on the amends that the perpetrators have to make. Moreover, victims of crime might feel helpless after the act, and restorative justice offers them the opportunity to take back control of their lives (Wenzel, Okimoto, Feather, & Platow, 2008). Therefore, restorative justice aims at healing both the offenders and the victims.

Restorative justice would be a good approach in Mikes Case but only in the last offense. The previous crimes that he has committed have directly affected him and probably indirectly affected his family. Moreover, restorative justice only works if the victims are willing to discuss with the perpetrators. The nature of Mike’s crimes indicates that he is escalating, and a sit down with his victims might end up pushing him further into crime. Mike needs to face a rude awakening, and this can only happen if he faces the severity of the law. He has exhibited that he is a danger not only to himself but also to the community, and so he needs to be removed from the community for a while. Restorative justice would have worked in the first instances when he was using drugs. Perhaps a sit down with people that cared about him would have helped him to understand that his actions affect other members of his family.

Retribution, incapacitation, and rehabilitation are the goals of criminal justice that need to be applied in Mike’s case. Mike will have to face the law for the crime that he has committed. He committed wrongs against the community, and so he has to be held accountable. Moreover, since he has established that he is a danger to himself and the community, he needs to be incapacitated. While in prison, Mike will undergo rehabilitation to help him avoid crime in the future and help him acquire skills that he will use once he is released. Restoration will not work in Mike’s case due to the severity of his actions. Besides, deterrence cannot be applied in Mike’s case since he is a repeat offender.

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