Sample Essay Paper on Philosophy of Sentencing

Philosophy of Sentencing

Sentencing refers to a decision arrived at by a judge or a court to punish a defendant convicted of committing a specific crime. The sentence involves rescript of fine, imprisonments, probation, capital punishment, monetary sanctions and other punishments arrived at by judge that are not in favor of defendants.  The philosophy underlying sentencing is that people ought to be held accountable for their actions and injuries they cause to others in the society. Many scholars outline that the central purpose behind criminal punishment is maintaining of social order while reducing crime level.  In contemporary world, sentencing is meant to achieve the stated goals; desert, retribution, revenge, restoration, deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation (Bagaric, 2005, p.98). 

Sentencing could apply diverse strategies ranging from mandatory minimum sentencing, determinate sentences, indeterminate sentences, advisory sentencing, voluntary and presumptive sentencing guidelines. The philosophy of fair sentencing refers to fairness for victims which advocates for, truly fair sentence meant to be unbiased to both the victims and offenders. The fair sentencing should be in proportionality to the crime committed, uphold equity, observe social debt and reflect truthfulness in sentencing. All sentences against the offender should be just and fair and should not cause more damages than they had committed. Sentence should also compensate the plaintiff for injuries suffered as a result of crime committed by defendant (Buell, 2007, p. 199). 

Purpose for criminal punishment

People are punished after breaking laws and criminal penalties varies from small fines which could involve offering of free service to the society to death penalties.  For every criminal act conducted there is an equal consequence to the offender.  The core purposes for the criminal punishments include:


This purpose for punishing an offender is supported by the fact that, a crime injures both a victim and society at large. Revenge against the offender satisfies the society and help recover from harmful act committed. Revenge also minimizes chances of victims taking personal charge of punishing offenders hence acting as incentive to seek retribution through the established legal systems recovering from damages caused (Buell, 2007, p. 201).


Criminal punishment is meant to discourage offenders from committing a similar crime for a second time. The penalty imposed to any criminal act deters lawbreakers from repeating the crimes that they were victims of committing. In addition, if penalties are well know by the public, it is factual that individuals who might consider involving themselves into a certain crime would be deterred from engaging into a prohibited act (Buell, 2007, p. 204). 

Incapacitation and Rehabilitation

Jail terms vary depending on the seriousness of the crime committed by the offender. To protect society from being harmed and victims of the offender’s actions, prison term is lengthened. This acts both as deterrence and revenge to the plaintiff and society at large.  To the repeat offenders, they are deterred from repeating crime acts by minimizing their chances of committing any crime that would injure the society and specific persons. Incapacitation through custody would help when preventing dangerous criminal from injuring the general public hence protecting society interests. Rehabilitation as a punishment is meant to bring an individual to a point of correction for crimes committed. They help imprisoned criminals evaluate their actions and reshape their behaviors. Hence after acquiring liberty, offenders restrain themselves from breaking laws (Diaconu, 2012, p. 133).

The interview held with a federal judge Richard G. Taranto concerning the purpose of criminal punishment indicated that, punishment can either reshape behavior or accelerate the criminal level depending on how it was applied to the offenders. Punishment though meant to protect and compensate the society from harms caused by offenders, interest of offenders should also be considered. Punishments ought to be fair to all parties involved and proportionate to the crime committed. Additionally, sentences should be directed towards compensating the plaintiff in an equal proportion of the damage suffered without injuring the offender (Buell, 2007, p. 205). 



Bagaric, M. (2005). Scientific Proof that Humans Enjoy Punishing Wrongdoers: The Implications for Punishment and Sentencing. International Journal Of Punishment And Sentencing, The, 1(2), 98.

Buell, S. W. (2007). Purposes and Effects in Criminal Law. Virginia Law Review, 93(6), 199-205.

Diaconu, G. (2012). The punishment’s purpose. Juridical Tribune / Tribuna Juridica, 2(2), 133.