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Generally, retribution is the act of paying for something that has been damaged. According to Hoffman (2004), it signifies the commonly used principle of an eye for an eye. He has always been used in the description of an appropriate punishment for a crime. Though normally confused with revenge, Hoffman notes that retribution is instead a rational act taken by the state. However, among those who use it interchangeably with ravage, the term denotes desire for satisfaction by the victim.

Hoffman (2004) however notes that in the practice of law, retribution refers to the penalty that is usually imposed on a criminal. According to him, the major reason of retribution is to provide some form of compensation to the victim. It also works to warn people against committing the same crimes. It can take the forms of jail terms or other proportional penal measures. By attaching various kinds of crimes to appropriate punishments, retribution works to sustain order in a given society. Its weakness is found in the difficulty in matching of punishments and crimes. Unlike other sentences retribution looks backwards in its analysis of crime (Hoffman, 2004).


According to Cliff (2011), deterrence involves coming up with consequences and attaching them to various crimes. They are specifically designed to warn people against committing such crimes. It focuses both on the individual and the society. Cliff (2011) gives an example of the issuance of tickets to drivers who are over speeding by the police officers. However, in certain desperate situations, people may not think of consequences while others may as well seek ways of avoiding the punishment.

According to Cliff (2011), general deterrence uses the offender as an example to send a warning to the larger community while specific deterrence seeks to make the offender reform. Critics have identified repeat of crime of those sentenced to prison as an indication of the failure of deterrence. Also only a section of crimes can be deterred. It can also not be used in cases where the crime committed is a crime of passion or where the criminal was under the influence of drugs because of inability to reason by the criminal (Cliffs, 2011).


Generally the term refers to some form of inability to carry out some tasks because of having been impaired physically or mentally (Cliff, 2011). In the context of sentencing, it majorly focuses on positive preventing and not deterring the possibility of the commission of the same offence in future. Like deterrence, it can also be done on a specific individual/crime or be general. According to Cliff (2011), incapacitation seeks to eliminate the possibility of the reoccurrence of criminal activities by taking away the ability of the individual to commit same criminal acts in future and not by rehabilitation.

Cliffs (2011) notes that incapacitation is criticized because it is not focusing on making the individual learn form they criminal acts. It therefore deters them from involving themselves in these activities only for the duration during which they are incapacitated/locked up. Though it is effective in reducing crimes, it is expensive in terms of prison facilities and man power. It also separates families (Cliffs, 2011).


Generally, rehabilitation is used to denote restoration to a useful life. Cliff (2011) notes that it is always achieved either through proving therapy or education. It focuses on restoring the damages body parts or to through education to help the criminal to compensate for such damages which can not be corrected. Its major aim is assist the individual to realize the highest possible achievements given their circumstances in life. The centers are expected to consistently measure the progress of each patient by providing a favorable atmosphere for them. It aims at transforming lawbreakers through correctional interventions. Examples are programs aiming at treating drug users. However, it has often lucks consistency majorly because of inadequate funding.  It may only be effective on non-violent criminals or first time offenders but not repeat offenders or violent criminals (Cliffs, 2011).


According to Maiese (2003), the major concern of restoration sentence is to provide healing to the victims. It also aims at restoring the offenders by making them to abide by the law while also restoring the affected relationships and the larger community (Maiese, 2003). The process of restoration involves all the stake holders including the victims, their family members the offenders and the larger community affected. It focuses on the safety, needs and support of the victims as its beginning point. It helps in quelling the public demand for extremely severe punishments. It advocates for compensation of the victim by the offender and not charging of the offender by the state. It allows the examination of the real causes of violence and crime to allow the barking of the cycles as well as restoring peace (Cliffs, 2011).

Deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation focuses on the consequences the punishment has on both the individual and the larger society and as thus they look forward. They also act as crime preventive mechanisms.

Meeting of the Goals


Imprisonment by its very definition fails to meet the goals of rehabilitation because it restraint criminals contrary to their will. It also fails to restore since the process does not normally involve all the stake holders (James, 2004). However, imprisonment achieves the goals of retribution, deterrence and incapacitation. Since it seeks to provide punishments which are proportionate to the crime committed in terms of the duration of service, it meets the goals of retribution. It also creates the fear of being imprisoned among the members of the larger community. This means that it is an effective deterrence measure. It achieves incapacitation because it removes the criminals from the larger societies against which they have committed the criminal act (Diane, 2007).


According to Garemichael (2011), probation is basically a case in which a convict is released from confinement though he/she still remains under a close supervision of the court. It may succeed in providing the goals of restoration, rehabilitation, incapacitation, and deterrence. The restriction of the individual’s freedom always deters other community members from committing the same crime by fear of being victims of the same. It can also help restore the individuals by making them to be law abiding citizens to avoid falling victims of the same. It also incapacitates the individual offender because his actions will be limited by the restrictions placed on him by the court.

Garemichael (2011) notes that probation also makes it possible for an individual to be provided with therapy and education during the period for which he is under probation thereby allowing him to meet the goals of rehabilitation. However, the sentence may fail to meet the goals of retribution because the duration of time for which the individual is put under probation may be changed depending on his/her cooperation with the court. Such duration may not necessarily be proportional to the crime committed. 


Even by definition, parole meets the goals of the five sentences except that of retribution. It is a conditional release of a criminal before the person’s term expires. This makes it fail to meet the goals of retribution which seeks a proportionate punishment to the crime committed. However, because the criminal is released conditionally and is subject to the supervision of the correctional authorities, it just like probation, meets the goals of the other four sentences (Petersilia, 2009).

Intermediate Sanctions

According to Caputo (2004), intermediate sanction takes the form of intensive probation, house arrest and even drug treatments programs (Caputo, 2004). This diversity in the forms of punishments enables it to meet the goals of all the five forms of sentences. Because it provides options such as drug treatment programs, it meets the goals of both restoration and probation. House arrest and intensive probation also sends warning to the community and the individual criminal thus helping to deter any future crime. The length of such measures as house arrests also allows it meet the goals of retribution and incapacitation (Caputo, 2004).

Indeterminate Sentence

According to USLegal (2011), it refers to a case where an individual is put into prison without clarity on the exact duration for which he/she will serve in prison. It has a provision for parole after the criminal has served for a specific portion of the full term. It meets the goals of rehabilitation since the individual can only be released upon the satisfaction of the parole board. Though it may not meet the goals of retribution because with cooperation the criminal can be released earlier, the sentence meets the goals of incapacitation, deterrence and restoration (USLegal, 2011).

Determinate Sentence

This is a case where a fixed term or incarceration is imposed on the criminal. Because it gives provision for the victim to be released earlier than the time mentioned, it fails to meet the goals of retribution. It also eliminates the possibility of putting the criminal under rehabilitation programs. However, the sentence meets the goals of deterrence, restoration and incapacitation (Diane, 2007).

The Death Sentence

This is the premeditated taking of a criminal’s life usually done by the relevant government (White, 2011). It meets the goals of retribution and incapacitation while failing to meet the goals of restoration, deterrence, and rehabilitation since the individual is not given a second chance to reform. It deters the community from involving themselves in such crimes because of fear of facing death.

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