What should be the dominant goal of the criminal sanction? Why?
This is, of course, a matter of personal opinion. There is no objective way to say what the real goal of criminal sanctions should be. Let us look at a few possibilities. Criminal sanctions are severe punishments, incarceration and fines given as sentences singly or in combination.
- Punishment. It is possible to argue that the point of criminal sanctions is to punish criminals. In this view, criminal acts are acts that are immoral and wrong. People who commit such acts deserve to be punished. The goal of the sanction, then, is to mete out justice by punishing those who deserve it.
- Rehabilitation. It is also possible to argue that criminal sanctions should be aimed at rehabilitating those who commit crimes. The vast majority of people who commit crimes will eventually leave prison and become part of our community again. The criminal justice system should help them gain the skills and abilities they need to succeed in society after they are released.
- Satisfying society’s needs. Finally, we can argue that the point of criminal sanctions is to do what society needs, not what the criminal needs or deserves. The point of sanctions, then, is to show the rest of society that we are being protected and our laws are being enforced.
With these possible goals in mind, each of us must decide for ourselves which goal is the most important.