8 Kinds and Theories of Punishment (2022) (2023)

8 Kinds and Theories of Punishment (2022) (1)

What Is Punishment?

Punishment is the penalty on someone as a result of their wrongdoing.

Crime is against society. Police aid in preventing the crime by arresting the criminals and forwarding them to court, where they are punished according to the law. The result of crime is punishment. The main aim of punishment is to reform the criminals and convert them into good Samaritans (a person who voluntarily offers help or sympathy in times of trouble) and law-abiding citizens. According to research, there are several theories of punishment. Let us see the essential ones.

There are eight important kinds or theories of punishment. They are:

  1. Deterrent Theory of Punishment
  2. Retributive Theory of Punishment
  3. Preventive Theory of Punishment
  4. Reformative Theory of Punishment
  5. Expiatory or Compensatory Theory of Punishment
  6. Incapacitation Theory of Punishment
  7. Utilitarian Theory of Punishment
  8. Multiple Approach Theory

Let us learn more about all these eight theories of punishment.

1. Deterrent Theory of Punishment

The word ‘deter’ means to prevent. Here, deterrent theory refers to refraining from doing a particular act. The main goal behind using this theory is to restrain criminals from committing a crime. In such theories, punishments awarded are severe in nature which creates a fear not only in the criminal’s mind but also in the mind of others. This theory is still prevalent in some Islamic countries.

In other words: The object of this theory is not only to prevent the wrongdoer from doing a wrong subsequently but also to make him an example for society and other people who have criminal tendencies.

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Locke is the supporter of the deterrent theory and said that “every commissioner of crime should be made a ‘bad bargain’ for the offenders.”

Drawbacks of the Deterrent Theory of Punishment

  1. Punishment fails to create fear in the mind of criminals once the punishment is over.
  2. This type of punishment fails to create fear in the mind of hardened criminals.
  3. Arouses sympathy in the mind of the public for criminals.

Example of the deterrent theory of punishment: Post Nirbhaya judgment, still rape cases are on the rise.

2. Retributive Theory of Punishment

The word ‘retribute means to give in return the same thing that has been received. To payback. It is also known as Vengeance Theory. It is based on the principle – tit for tat. This theory is against the principle of Mahatma Gandhi.

There was a belief that if the offender is subjected to the same torture as he had done to the victim, then it makes the offender realise what he has done.

In other words: This theory proposes tit for tat, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. The punishment has to be proportional to the crime committed. The believers of this theory say that criminals must suffer pain. Retributive theory is the most ancient theory of justice.

Drawbacks of the Retributive Theory of Punishment

  1. It exasperates (irritate and frustrate intensely) the offender.
  2. There is no relief for the offence committed by the offender.
  3. This type of punishment reflects the wild character of justice.
  4. Punishment may not be revengeful always.

Example of the retributive theory of punishment: Rape in return for rape may not be a punishment for the offender.

3. Preventive Theory of Punishment

The main aim of this theory is to prevent crime. When the criminals are kept in jails, they are kept out of society. The object of this theory is to prevent or disable the offenders from repeating the offence by giving them punishment. A supporter of preventive theory is Paton.

Examples of the preventive theory of punishment include death, life imprisonment, forfeiture of property etc.

Drawbacks of the Preventive Theory of Punishment

  1. Fails to fulfil the aim of juvenile offenders and offenders who have committed the offence for the first time.

Case Law: Dr Jacob vs the State of Kerala: The apex court stated that punishment should be deterrent, retributive, preventive, expiatory, compensatory, incapacitation and utilitarian theory. Preference for one theory over the other is not a good policy to award punishment.

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4. Reformative Theory of Punishment

This theory focuses on reforming the criminals and bringing the criminals back to society as good and law-abiding citizens. This is based on the Gandhian principle: Hate the sin, not the sinner.

This theory was successful to some extent in the case of juveniles. Some work or craftsmanship is imposed on the offender during his period of confinement with the aim that he will start a new life after his punishment is over.

Example of the reformative theory of punishment: Ankit, a prisoner, has learned pottery during his stay in jail. After his release from jail, he started a pottery business, earned his livelihood and lived happily.

Drawbacks of the Reformative Theory of Punishment

  1. If this theory is applied to criminals, the prison will no more remain as a prison rather become a dwelling house.
  2. This theory fails to meet its objective on criminals who are habitual offenders.
  3. If a good citizen is punished for what he has not done, this theory may have adverse effects.

5. Expiatory or Compensatory Theory of Punishment

The theorists of this theory say that the object of the punishment is self-realization. If the offender, after committing an offence, realizes his guilt, then he must be forgiven.

In other words: This theory relies on compensation to the victim for the loss caused by the accused. In this way, the offenders are made to realise the same sufferings they have caused to the victim.

Example of the expiatory or compensatory theory of punishment: Sukant, who injured Bikash, undergoes imprisonment where he was made to work and sell his outcomes. The money earned is provided to Bikash to compensate for his treatment.

Drawbacks of the Expiatory or Compensatory Theory of Punishment

  1. Oversimplification of the motive of the crime.
  2. Too idealistic
  3. Too impracticable in modern society.

Case Laws:

1. DK Vasu vs State of West Bengal: A victim who is guaranteed fundamental rights of the Constitution must be compensated as he is guaranteed the right to personal life and liberty under Article 21 by the Constitution, which was violated by the officer of the State.

2. State of Gujarat vs High Court of Gujarat: The court has raised serious concerns where the victim is paid from the daily wages that are earned by the criminal during his confinement and demanded comprehensive legislation for the same.

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6. Incapacitation Theory of Punishment

This theory puts the criminals into the state of being incapacitated to prevent the offence. A fear also grows in the mind of the criminals and future generations before attempting to commit future crimes, thus preventing it.

Incapacitated means deprived of strength or power.

Example of the incapacitation theory of punishment: Capital punishments and life imprisonment.

According to a report by Chicago University, such a theory succeeded in eliminating twenty per cent of the crime.

7. Utilitarian Theory of Punishment

This theory applies discouraging methods on criminals to prevent crimes such as crippling or disablement, etc. This theory provides both affirmative and negative results. Such punishments are considered to be very harsh in nature.

Example of the utilitarian theory of punishment: Death penalty for murder convict.

8. Multiple Approach Theory

If a single theory fails to meet the objective, then a combination of theories is the choice. Hence the court should make a judicious approach while selecting theories of punishments.


The very purpose of awarding punishment is to avoid crime in society. The root cause of crime must be found and addressed to reduce the crime in society, with some of the root causes being unemployment, education etc.

Some heinous crimes like rape, murder etc., where punishment cannot fulfil the damage caused, in such cases, the victims must be awarded compensation with fair and speedy justice. The court should think from every aspect while awarding punishment because a hundred accused may go off, but an innocent should not be punished.

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Student’s Query: In India, what justice do we follow – retributive justice or restorative?

Answer: In India, we follow and emphasise the reformative theory of justice or restorative. We believe in solving the crime than a criminal. It is the intention of committing a crime that needs to be separated from a criminal. If we can change a person’s mindset by ways and means, then that will be the true victory of preventing crime.


This article is written by Amit Kumar Das, B.Tech, LLB. He is a practising advocate from Odisha High Court & Puri District Courts.

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What are various theories of punishment? ›

There are majorly four theories of punishment. These theories are the deterrent theory, retributive theory, preventive theory, and reformative theory.

What are the 5 types of punishments in the United States criminal justice system? ›

Those who study types of crimes and their punishments learn that five major types of criminal punishment have emerged: incapacitation, deterrence, retribution, rehabilitation and restoration.

How many types of punishments are there? ›

Ans. The five punishments given to criminals in India are death penalty, life imprisonment, imprisonment, forfeiture of property, and solitary confinement. Ans. Imprisonment comes under sections 194 and 449 of the INDIAN PENAL CODE.

Which theory of punishment is best and why? ›

Preventive Theory of punishment. Preventive theory of punishment seeks to prevent prospective crimes by disabling the criminals. Main object of the preventive theory is transforming the criminal, either permanently or temporarily. Under this theory the criminals are punished by death sentence or life imprisonment etc.

What are the eight important kinds or theories of punishment? ›

Case Law: Dr Jacob vs the State of Kerala: The apex court stated that punishment should be deterrent, retributive, preventive, expiatory, compensatory, incapacitation and utilitarian theory.

What are the 7 aims of punishment? ›

Punishment has five recognized purposes: deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, retribution, and restitution.

What are the 8 steps of the criminal justice system? ›

  • Investigation.
  • Charging.
  • Initial Hearing/Arraignment.
  • Discovery.
  • Plea Bargaining.
  • Preliminary Hearing.
  • Pre-Trial Motions.
  • Trial.

What are the 6 types of punishment? ›

Types of Punishment
  • (a) Capital Punishment. Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the legal taking of the life of a criminal. ...
  • (b) Imprisonment. ...
  • (c) Judicial Corporal Punishment. ...
  • (d) Fines. ...
  • (e) Compensation. ...
  • (f) Forfeiture and Confiscation. ...
  • (g) Costs. ...
  • (h) Security to Keep Peace/ Security for Good Behaviour.
11 Mar 2020

What are the 7 types of crimes? ›

Types of crime
  • Antisocial behaviour. Antisocial behaviour is when you feel intimidated or distressed by a person's behaviour towards you.
  • Arson. ...
  • Burglary. ...
  • Childhood abuse. ...
  • Crime abroad. ...
  • Cybercrime and online fraud. ...
  • Domestic abuse. ...
  • Fraud.
17 Mar 2022

What are the 5 theories of punishment? ›

Theories of Punishment
  • Deterrent theory of punishment.
  • Retributive Theory of Punishment.
  • Preventive Theory of Punishment.
  • Expiatory Theory of Punishment.
  • Incapacitation theory of punishment.
  • Reformative Theory of Punishment.
4 Oct 2021

What punishments are used today? ›

Types of Punishment
  • Incarceration. Incarceration means time in a local jail or a state or federal prison. ...
  • Fines. Many criminal punishments carry fines, which is money paid to the government (often a city, county, or state).
  • Diversion. ...
  • Probation. ...
  • Restitution. ...
  • Community service. ...
  • Defendant 1. ...
  • Defendant 2.
24 Jun 2022

What are the 5 types of punishment and their purpose? ›

There are five main underlying justifications of criminal punishment considered briefly here: retribution; incapacitation; deterrence; rehabilitation and reparation.

What are the modern theories of punishment? ›

Deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation are all arguments that look to the consequences of punishment. They are all forward‐looking theories of punishment. That is, they look to the future in deciding what to do in the present. The shared goal of all three is crime prevention.

What is the most effective type of punishment? ›

Natural Consequences: Natural consequences are the best form of positive punishment because they teach your children about life. Natural consequences do not require any action from the parent. Instead, these are consequences that occur naturally as the result of bad behavior.

What is the most used form of punishment? ›

Probation, the most frequently used criminal sanction, is a sentence that an offender serves in the community in lieu of incarceration.

How many theories of crime are there? ›

While there are many different sociological theories about crime, there are four primary perspectives about deviance: Structural Functionalism, Social Strain Typology, Conflict Theory, and Labeling Theory.

What is cruel and unusual punishment in Amendment 8? ›

If a punishment is significantly harsher than punishments traditionally given for the same or similar crimes, it is cruel and unusual, even though the same punishment might be acceptable for other crimes. For example, it would be cruel and unusual to impose a life sentence for a parking violation, but not for murder.

Why are there theories of punishment? ›

Punishment is primarily said to be deterrent when its object is to show the futility of crime and to teach the wrongdoer. According to this theory, the object of punishment is to show that crime is never profitable to the offender. The idea behind this punishment is to inflict exemplary sentence on the offender.

What are the 4 main types of sentencing? ›

Types of sentences include probation, fines, short-term incarceration, suspended sentences, which only take effect if the convict fails to meet certain conditions, payment of restitution to the victim, community service, or drug and alcohol rehabilitation for minor crimes.

What are the four elements of punishment? ›

The punishment of wrongdoings is typically categorized in the following four justifications: retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation and incapacitation (societal protection).

What are the 6 Recognised aims of punishment? ›

These purposes include retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, incapacitation, and restoration. In the United States, we have experienced various phases in our approach to criminal punishment.

What are the key elements of criminal justice class 8? ›

There are four key players in the criminal justice system: The Police, The Public Prosecutor, The Defence Lawyer and The Judge.

What are the 10 steps in the criminal justice system? ›

Steps of The Criminal Justice System
  • Arrest. An arrest is made by the Police/Sheriff Department or a citation to appear in Court is issued. ...
  • Initial Appearance. ...
  • Preliminary Hearing or Trial Information. ...
  • Arraignment. ...
  • Pleas. ...
  • Jury Selection. ...
  • Trial. ...
  • A trial usually consists of the following steps:

What are the 12 steps in a trial? ›

The process is generally as follows:
  • Filing a Complaint and Answer (Pleadings)
  • Pre-trial motions.
  • Jury Selection.
  • Opening Statement(s)
  • Presentations of Evidence.
  • Rebuttal & Surrebuttal.
  • Jury Instructions.
  • Jury Deliberation.
7 Oct 2022

What are the different types of punishment for children? ›

Examples include positive reinforcement, time-out, taking away of privileges, and physical punishment. Physical punishment, sometimes called corporal punishment, is anything done to cause pain or discomfort in response to your child's behaviors.

How many types of punishment are there in school? ›

Punishment in schools may focus on three different philosophies: punishment that is in- tended to change the student behavior; punishment that is retributive – a predefined conse- quence imposed by adult authority; and recently, a type of punishment that is an effort to be “restorative,” which is focused on changing ...

What are the seven 7 theories of crime? ›

  • Biological theories.
  • Economic theories.
  • Psychological theories.
  • Political theories.
  • Sociological theories.
  • Strain theory.
  • Social learning theory.
  • Control theory.
31 Jan 2021

What are the 6 basic elements of a crime? ›

The elements of a crime are criminal act, criminal intent, concurrence, causation, harm, and attendant circumstances. Only crimes that specify a bad result have the elements of causation and harm.

Which is the oldest theory of punishment? ›

Retributive Theory is the oldest theory of punishment where the punishment is given because they have done a wrongful act and if not, then they should not be given any form of punishment.

What are the 3 theories of criminal law? ›

There are three theories in criminal law, namely: (1) classical theory, (2) positivist theory, and (3) eclectic theory.

What are positive punishments? ›

Positive punishment is when you add a consequence to unwanted behavior. You do this to make it less appealing. An example of positive punishment is adding more chores to the list when your child neglects their responsibilities.

What are the example of forms of punishment? ›

Punishment may take forms ranging from capital punishment, flogging, forced labour, and mutilation of the body to imprisonment and fines. Deferred punishments consist of penalties that are imposed only if an offense is repeated within a specified time.

What crimes are punishable by death today? ›

In most countries that practise capital punishment, it is now reserved for murder, terrorism, war crimes, espionage, treason, or as part of military justice.

What are the 4 types of reinforcement and punishment? ›

Now let's combine these four terms: positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment (Table 1). Something is added to increase the likelihood of a behavior. Something is added to decrease the likelihood of a behavior.

What is Hegel's theory of punishment? ›

Hegel's theory is that punishment, that is, pain inflicted be- cause the sufferer had previously done wrong, may lead to repentance for the crime which caused the punishment.

What is the social theory of punishment? ›

The sociology of punishment seeks to understand why and how we punish; the general justifying aim of punishment and the principle of distribution. Punishment involves the intentional infliction of pain and/or the deprivation of rights and liberties.

What is the cruelest form of punishment? ›

Scaphism was one of the worst and most painful, skin-crawling methods of torture. It was described by the Greeks as a punishment used by the Persians, and if they are to be believed, those Persians were insane.

What is the best form of punishment for a child? ›

How to Discipline a Child
  • Time-Out.
  • Losing privileges.
  • Ignoring mild misbehavior.
  • Teaching new skills.
  • Logical consequences.
  • Natural consequences.
  • Rewards for good behavior.
  • Praise for good behavior.

What are good punishments for students? ›

Have the student write a letter of apology. Instead of giving them lines, have them recopy their notes from the class. Give them additional homework. Reduce their break time (depending on the school's disciplinary code) or deprive them of a reward.

What are the 6 forms of punishment? ›

The Types of Criminal Punishment
  • Retribution. ...
  • Deterrence. ...
  • Rehabilitation. ...
  • Incapacitation. ...
  • Restoration.
26 May 2021

What are the 7 theories of criminality? ›

Crime causation
  • Biological theories.
  • Economic theories.
  • Psychological theories.
  • Political theories.
  • Sociological theories.
31 Jan 2021

What are the 7 primary types of crime? ›

  • Drug Crimes.
  • Homicide.
  • Criminal Attempt, Conspiracy, and Aiding and Abetting.
  • Federal Crimes, Cybercrimes, and Juvenile Crimes.
  • Sex Crimes.
  • Theft Crimes.
  • Traffic Offenses.
  • Violent Crimes.
15 Oct 2022

What are the different kinds of punishment? ›

Kinds of Punishment
  • Death Penalty. It is capital punishment, as the criminal hangs until death. ...
  • Life Imprisonment. The words imprisonment for life were used for transportation for life by Act XXVI of 1955. ...
  • Imprisonment. ...
  • Forfeiture of Property. ...
  • Fine. ...
  • Solitary Confinement.

What are the 3 theories of imposing punishment in criminal law? ›

Deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation are all arguments that look to the consequences of punishment. They are all forward‐looking theories of punishment. That is, they look to the future in deciding what to do in the present. The shared goal of all three is crime prevention.

What is the best theory of punishment? ›

The deterrent theory of punishment is utilitarian in nature. For a better understanding we can say like, 'The man is punished not only because he has done a wrongful act, but also in order to ensure the crime may not be committed.

What are the 4 criminal theories? ›

The study and practice of criminology delves into crime causation and factors that contribute to offender criminality. This means considering four basic theories: Rational Choice, Sociological Positivism, Biological Positivism and Psychological Positivism.

What are the 5 theories of deviance? ›

According to Merton, there are five types of deviance based upon these criteria: conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion. Merton's typology is fascinating because it suggests that people can turn to deviance in the pursuit of widely accepted social values and goals.

What are the 8 types of crimes? ›

Types of crime
  • Antisocial behaviour. Antisocial behaviour is when you feel intimidated or distressed by a person's behaviour towards you.
  • Arson. ...
  • Burglary. ...
  • Childhood abuse. ...
  • Crime abroad. ...
  • Cybercrime and online fraud. ...
  • Domestic abuse. ...
  • Fraud.
17 Mar 2022

What is the 8 focus crime? ›

Focus Crimes:

8 Focus Crimes (Murder, homicide, PI, rape, robbery, theft, carnapping MV, carnapping MC) are crimes which are in fact Index Crimes, excluding those accounted as incidents of Cattle Rustling.

What are the 3 elements of a crime? ›

In general, every crime involves three elements: first, the act or conduct (actus reus); second, the individual's mental state at the time of the act (mens rea); and third, the causation between the act and the effect (typically either proximate causation or but-for causation).

What are the main 3 factor of crime? ›

The Crime Triangle identifies three factors that create a criminal offense. Desire of a criminal to commit a crime; Target of the criminal's desire; and the Opportunity for the crime to be committed. You can break up the Crime Triangle by not giving the criminal the Opportunity.

What are the 3 main categories of crime? ›

The categories are usually "felony," "misdemeanor," and "infraction." Decisions on crime classification are made by state legislators; the determination focuses on the seriousness of the crime.


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