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Punishment is applied in order to restore social justice, as well as improve the convicted person, and prevent the commission of new crimes. The importance of the chosen theme is the answer to the question about the essential features and content of the concept of criminal punishment. The significance of the research paper is caused by the fact that criminal punishment is one of the most important institutions of the criminal law. Not only the professional researchers but also common people show an interest in this topic. The relevance of the theme of the research paper is related to the fact that at the moment, there are many disputes and disagreements on the application of punishments.

Punishment is one of the essential characteristics of the crime. In the theory of criminal law, punishment is considered as the realization of criminal responsibility to endure hardship for the crime committed.


Many scientists believe that punishment is one of the essential elements of a crime. Punishment is a kind of coercion invoked to a person found guilty of a crime. It includes forfeit or restriction of the freedoms and rights of the convicted individual specified by law. Punishment is invoked in order to bring one to social justice as well as improve the convicted person and prevent the origination of further crimes.

The Concept of Criminal Punishment

The state, which establishes criminal prohibitions to commit socially dangerous acts, reacts to their violation. This response of the state is fair, negative, and inevitable requital to a guilty person for his/her actions, i. e. a punishment. It includes conviction of the crime committed and reproach of a person who carried out it. The forms of expression of this reaction are different kinds of punishment. The issue of criminal punishment is one of the most conflicting in criminal science. The criminal justice systems of all western nations face a common problem: responding to public attitudes to punishment. Punishment has long been thought to be morally problematic. Punishment arose in connection with the necessity of materialization and practical ensuring of the reaction of the state. Its social function and utility role consists in the protection of society from the criminal attacks. The essence of criminal punishment is retribution. However, it is not seen as the deliberate infliction of suffering. Punishment is a fair reward for the crime committed. It consists in condemnation of the crime committed and blame of the person who carried it out. “Because many persons assume that individual are free to choose and are responsible for their choices, punishment seems to make sense”.

There are several specific characteristics, the combination of which forms the concept of punishment. The latter is a special measure of state coercion, which differs from other measures of state coercion. Punishment is strictly personal as it applies only to the offender and under no circumstances can be passed to other people. Punishment is always connected with the limitations of rights and freedoms of an individual who committed certain crime. It causes certain moral sufferings and deprives a person of certain benefits. Any punishment in varying degrees should have a punitive content. The sternness of punishment should comply with the earnestness of the crime committed. In this connection, it should also conform to the perpetrator’s personalities. In a certain sense, privations and hardships of punishment experienced by a criminal are the atonements of his or her guilt.

There is a number of theories that consider the concept and nature of punishment. The first one is the theory of protection and necessary defense. Punishment is a measure of protection of the state existence as well as the maintenance of a public authority and self-preservation. A German scientist Kraepelin denied the need of judicial terms. According to the scientist, the corrective measure should be as long as needed to make a person a useful member of society. The next theory is the theory of retribution. Retaliation or retribution should be fair. It is concluded in accordance between punishment and guilt. Through the structure of negation, punishment is able to renew the earlier violated right. The third theory is a theory of equations. There are mathematical, dialectical, and economic ways depending on the criterion of the measurement of violated goods. Some scientists see punishment as a measure to achieve good. It often provides substantial benefit to the offender. He/she is the debtor in relation to society, and the latter is a creditor. The offender pays the debt through the serving of the sentence.

In such a way, criminal punishment is a measure of the state coercion contained in the criminal law. It can be applied only by the court to a person presumed guilty in of crime. If an individual has not committed crime but any other violation, other legal sanctions should be imposed. Criminal punishment is the after-effects of the crime committed. It should correspond to the severity and public danger of the crime. Only crime is the basis of establishing and applying punishment. Criminal punishment is generally more repressive and cruel. It is more than other types of legal liability violate the rights of citizens. The use of the death penalty or imprisonment is possible only within the framework of criminal responsibility. Those kinds of punishment, which are used as part of liability in criminal law, are more severe. The system of punishments is broader and more diverse than in other areas of law. Only criminal punishment entails such legal consequence as a criminal record.

The Objectives of Punishment

Any reasonable action has to pursue a specific goal. Otherwise, it can be called meaningless. Objectives largely determine the ways, methods, and means of achieving them. These provisions relate directly to the objectives of criminal punishment, which have a strong and often determining the influence on the criminal law. The modern definition of the purposes of punishment is not entirely new in the history of criminal law. It is worth remembering the Penal Code of 1845, in which satisfaction, correction, and deterrence were established. These objectives were pursued by punishment as the main directions of realization.

The state directs its forces to improve the effectiveness of punishment. It can only be achieved with a clear definition of its objectives. There is a common definition of purposes of punishment. These are the final actual results, which the state seeks to achieve establishing criminal responsibility, condemning the perpetrators of crimes and applying a particular penalty to him/her. In criminal law, the primary purposes of punishment are the right of social justice, the avoidance of new crimes by the convicted (special prevention) and other people (general prevention), and the improvements of the convicted defendant. However, there are some scholars who affirm that punishment does not perform its role properly. “Punishment is morally impermissible and should be abolished immediately”.

Restoration of social justice is implemented with respect to society as a whole and the victim in particular. The state partially reimburses the damage caused at the expense of fine, confiscation of property, or hard labor. People are assured of the fact that the law and public authorities are able to punish the offender on the basis of socio-psychological and rational reasons taking into account the commencement of the humanity, proportionality, and effectiveness. “Punishment is simply a necessary condition if the process of law enforcement is to be effective in preventing the evils of impunity”. With regard to the victim, social justice is recovered through the protection of the legitimate interests and rights violated by the crime. Realizing this goal, punishment should ensure the opportunity of the compensation for damages. To the possible extent, there is the proportionality of forfeit or restriction of the freedoms and rights of the convicted person with sufferings of the victim.

Another purpose of punishment is special prevention. Its aim is a convicted defendant. The fact of the crime indicates the presence of criminogenic personality traits and nature of the offender. It refers to the fact that there is the great expectancy of committing further crimes in the future. It is clear that the state cannot have an indifferent attitude to this situation and tries to correct the offender. The state wants to replace negative attitudes of the identity of the offender to positive ones. In such a way, the purpose of punishment is the correction of the convicted person. Some scholars affirm that its purpose is the deterrence of the offender. “International justice advocates sometimes rely rather uncritically on the idea of the deterrence as the objective of criminal punishment”. The objective of punishment is the education of a person. It is believed that a criminal will not commit a crime at least because of fear of possible punishment.

General prevention is the prevention of the perpetration of crimes by other people. The fact is that among the law-abiding citizens, there is a category of individuals who demonstrate the ability and possibility to perform the offense in the form of the administrative, disciplinary, and simply immoral actions. In the case of publicity of trials and the availability of court sentences to the public indicating the inevitability of punishment, people have an idea of the inevitability of punishment.

The next goal of punishment is retribution. This aim is inherent in any punishment. In fact, the essence of any punishment consists in deprivation or restriction of rights, i. e. changing the usual conditions of existence towards toughening. This transition necessity causes suffering and feeling of retaliation. Thus, the element of punishment is necessarily inherent to criminal punishment. However, the doctrine of criminal law determines that retribution is not a goal, but a means of achieving the aim of correction of condemned people through intimidation. Unfortunately, not always the criminal law consistently adheres to this principle. It is evidenced by the presence of such form of punishment as the death penalty in many countries. In this case, the purpose of retribution for the crime comes to the fore.


The Types of Criminal Punishment

There are various types of criminal punishment. “In the modern American criminal justice system, various sanctions exist for those convicted of criminal offenses”. All types of criminal punishment are divided into two groups: basic and additional. Measures are also applied as basic and additional ones. Corrective labor, restriction in military service, arrest, compulsory labor, restriction of liberty, service in a disciplinary military unit, imprisonment for a certain term, life imprisonment, and death penalty are applied as the basic types of punishments. As for deprivation of the right to engage in certain activities or occupy positions and fine are applied as both primary and additional punishments.

A fine is a monetary sanction. The essence of a fine lies in the infringement of property interests of a person committed a crime. The amount of a fine can be provided in the two ways. The first one is wages or other income for a specific period. The second way is a set sum of money. A fine as a measure of punishment is of great practical importance since the punishment is equally repressive in relation to various segments of the population.

Deprivation of the right to occupy certain positions or take part in some activities lies in prohibition on holding positions and be engaged in activities connected with local government and public offices. The court can forejudge a criminal of a special, honorary or military title, state awards, or a class rank after considering an individuality of a culpable person convicted of serious or especially serious crime.

Compulsory labor involves rendering of community service when a person is not occupied with work or study. Corrective labor is appointed to those convicted defendants who do not have the main place of work. As usually, corrective labor is served in those places that are subjected by the local government working together with the body implementing punishment in the form of hard labor. It should be noted that it is supposed to take place in the area of residence of the criminal. In case of malicious evasion from serving the sentence by the person convicted to correctional labor, a court can replace punishment with the restraint of liberty, arrest, or imprisonment. Restriction on military service consists in deprivation of the opportunity of promotion and a military rank of the convicted soldiers performing military service under the contract, while holding the state revenue established by a court verdict of their monetary allowance.

Limitation of freedom implies that the criminal is being in a special institution without isolation from society under strict supervision. In case the convicted defendant tries to avoid serving restriction of freedom, it is replaced by imprisonment for a period of liberty restriction appointed by court. The aim of arrest is to keep the condemned person in strict isolation from the society. Deprivation of liberty involves isolation of a criminal from society by sending him or her to prison, medical correctional institution, educational colony, or correctional colony of general, special, or strict regime. “In most countries, the main type of punishment for serious crimes is prison”. A person can be sentenced to life imprisonment only if the most serious crime was committed against people. It should be noted that in some countries, the death penalty can be imposed only for especially grave crimes encroaching upon one’s life. “The history of the death penalty reflects even more sharply ongoing questions about the purposes of punishment”.

A variety of social relations protected by criminal law encroaching of socially dangerous acts as well as the personal qualities of offenders cause necessitates of strict individualization of sentences. An indispensable condition for this is the establishment of a wide range of different punitive, educational, and preventative types of criminal punishments. The forms of punishment are different in nature, severity, and the possible impact on the convicted person. In each case, this fact allows the court to assign the most appropriate and fair punishment for a person guilty of a crime.


The institute of criminal punishment contributing to the fulfillment of the socio-preventive function of criminal law is the pivotal one. The effectiveness of the criminal law is largely reduced to a question about the effectiveness of criminal punishment. It depends on the correct definition of the purposes of punishment. The latter is a forced measure of the state denying the will of the convicted person and performing an external impact on his/her behavior. Punishments provided by the criminal law for offenses vary in content and severity. Objectives of punishment are isometric. They determine the construction of the system of punishment, the individualization of punishment, and its purpose.

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