Friday, June 10, 2011

Crime and punishment

"The purpose of punishments is not to torment and afflict a sentient being or to undo a crime which has already been committed. Far from acting out of passion, can a political body, which is the calm agent that moderates the passions of private individuals, harbor useless cruelty, the tool of fury and fanaticism or weak tyrants? Can the cries of the poor wretch turn back time and undo actions which have already been done? The purpose of punishment, then, is nothing other than to dissuade the criminal from doing fresh harm to his compatriots and to keep other people from doing the same. Therefore, punishments and the method of inflicting them should be chosen that, mindful of the proportion between crime and punishment, will make the most effective and lasting impression on men's minds and inflict the least torment on the body of the criminal." [On Crimes and Punishments by Cesare Beccaria, 1764]
"In enforcing this punishment [of life imprisonment] in the Federal Republic, state officials are under a duty not merely to incarcerate but also to rehabilitate the prisoner through appropriate treatment... The court on several occasions has maintained that rehabilitation is constitutionally required in any community that establishes human dignity as its centerpiece and commits itself to the principle of social justice. ... The condemned criminal must be given the chance, after atoning for his crime, to reenter society... ... the state strikes at the very heart of human dignity if '[it] treats the prisoner without regard to the development of his personality and strips him of all hope of ever earning his freedom... ... [a hope] which makes the sentence bearable in terms of human dignity. [Constitutional Jurisprudence of the Federal Republic of Germany. Life Imprisonment Case, (1977) 45 BverGE 187.]

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