Improving Conditions: Crime & Punishment

by tinacastillo ~ April 22nd, 2010. Filed under: Chapter 16: The Age of Enlightenment: Rationalism and its Uses.

What makes inmates behave when let outside (yet surrounded by fence) and makes guards relax a bit more? The tower in the middle of the prison is like someone is always watching you. This constant fear, one may call, is what may keep inmate continually behaving. Instead of being locked up, inmates today to daily chores, eat meal, and have time to write letters, read books or call family. However, the legal system was not like this in the 17th century…

In a typical jailhouse, murderers would sit next to debtors. A rapist and debtor would both be put to death. To fix this cruel punishment to those that today would be called misdemeanors, reformer Cesare Beccaria drew out a new legal system. He called for the irrational legal system to concentrate less on the punishment but instead on how to get the person back out as an active member of society. In his book of Crime and Punishments 1764, he condemned the use of torture and capital punishment.

On the other hand, Immanuel Kant refuted Beccaria’s idea of no capital punishment. Kant believed that the punishment should fit the crime. For example in a case that a mother killed her child, the mother should be put to death. Kant criticized Beccaria for being too sensitive and Kant did not emphasize the criminal becoming a better person but first being punished, and whether or not he or she become a better person was up to them.

Lastly, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel believed that punishment was the right of the criminal. “Crime, he argued, is an affront to the verystructure of legality and criminals have metaphorically torn the mask of legal personality from both their victims and themselves, revealing the naked contingency of the law. Punishment “annuls” the crime by re-asserting the proper status of both parties as legal subjects. Thus punishment is a right of the criminal as much as of the victim (which does not mean that the criminal desires it).”

Quote from:  Punishment – The Enlightenment

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