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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: October 2014

10 - Punishment Philosophies and Practices around the World



While punishment is universal in all criminal justice systems, it varies in the justifications given for its administration, and the kinds of punishments employed. However, comparing or even describing the use of punishments around the world is fraught with many difficulties, as is the comparison of crime (see Chapter 62). By far the most difficult problem is to be sure that when we compare punishment from one country to another we are in fact comparing the same thing.


In general, the definition of punishment in criminal justice should include the following elements (Newman, 2008):

It must result in pain or consequences normally considered unpleasant.

It must be for an actual or supposed offender for his offence.

It must be administered for an offence against the law.

It must be intentionally administered by a legal authority.

It must be administered by someone other than the offender.

This definition has many problems, but it does serve to establish some boundaries. It eliminates, for example, wanton or indiscriminate violence against others, such as rape in war or death squads in times of insurrection. On the other hand, many countries that have Departments of Corrections aimed at rehabilitation (most do), may claim that the consequences are not intended to be painful, nor are they necessarily experienced as unpleasant.

Alizadeh, M. S. (2010). Iran. In Newman, G. R. (Ed.). Crime and Punishment Around the World. Volume 1, Africa and Middle East. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
Beccaria, C. (2009). On Crimes and Punishments. Fifth Edition. Newman, G. R. & Marongiu, P. (Eds. and trans.). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Garland, D. (1993). Punishment and Modern Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Newman, G. R. (2008). The Punishment Response. Second Edition. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.
Newman, G. R. (Ed.) (2010). Crime and Punishment Around the World. Four Volumes. New Haven, CT: Greenwood Press.
Sellin, T. (1976). Slavery and the Penal System. NY: Elsevier.