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The Oxford Textbook on Criminology

The Oxford Textbook on Criminology (2nd edn)

Steve Case, Phil Johnson, David Manlow, Roger Smith, and Kate Williams
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date: 01 December 2023

p. 836p. 83728. Punishmentlocked

p. 836p. 83728. Punishmentlocked

  • Steve Case,
  • Phil Johnson,
  • David Manlow,
  • Roger Smith
  •  and Kate Williams


This chapter discusses the place that punishment occupies as a response to crime. In many ways, the idea of punishment lies at the heart of our thinking about crime and criminal justice. It acts as a kind of balancing factor to the offence and seems like an obvious and natural consequence of a wrongful act, as in the biblical idea of ‘an eye for an eye’. However, the criminologist’s task is precisely to interrogate fundamental assumptions and to question the obvious. As such, there is a need to consider, with a critical eye, some well-established conventions such as the principle of ‘just deserts’ and the idea that we should make ‘the punishment fit the crime’. The chapter explores aspects of the historical development of punishment and its changing role in society and looks at particular forms of penal sanction, notably the death penalty, the use of imprisonment, and community-based alternatives to the deprivation of liberty. The chapter then assesses the role of the judiciary in administering punishments, the consequences of imposing punitive measures, and the criticisms of the use of punishment.

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