Editor in Chief: Dr. Hussain Yasa Sunday, March 26th, 2017

Punishment Should Have a Corrective Approach

Crime is an evil against society for which the man is punished by the laws. It is generally believed that good and evil lie embedded together in human nature and it has been seen often in actual life that many good souls commit evil deeds simply because evil in them gets the upper hand over the good in them. The causes of human vices may be many. For example, some persons submit to pleasure while others cannot endure pain and a few others lack the strength of purpose or even prudence in the choice of actions. 

It is generally believed that evil is always punished whether in the form of bodily sufferings or mental agonies or even in the form of complete ruin and death. But let us not forget that it is unjust to inflict punishment where law fails to weigh in the scales a person's criminality and the suffering he has already undergone for that. A punishment that is not aimed at reforming the offender would turn him a confirmed criminal. We cannot contradict that ‘justice is a machine that when someone has once given it the starting push, rolls on of itself and the defaulter is ground to pieces under this machine for an act which at the worst was one of weakness.’ So we must see how far and in what circumstances the accused is really guilty of an offence. There must be some flexibility in the law in which there is a scope for the psycho analysis of the convict. Unfortunately, there is no provision under the law to treat a prisoner of "weak character" as a patient rather than a criminal. 

One of the greatest services that Islam has rendered to humanity is delivering it from the unnecessary and imaginary sin. Talking about man, the Qur'an says, "The nature of God in which He has made man". The Holy Prophet (PBUH) elucidated this in his famous saying that even child is born with natural endowments, which if kept pure and intact would lead him to Islam. No doubt, the difference in the lives of men arises from the balance of good and evil in their lives. But true repentance wipes away all sins.

It is very unfortunate that in our modern society, criminals are dealt or treated like dogs. Their power of resistance is broken by solitary confinement and unhealthy atmosphere, and naturally when they come out of the prison, they are quite unfit to cope with life. Their will-power is broken and they easily succumb to temptation. So it has become an established fact that solitary confinement instead of reforming the prisoner makes them desperate. A thoroughly disgraced convict feels extremely humiliated when he moves about in the society. Therefore, it is the basic need of the society to find out ways and means to rehabilitate such a person to an honorable place in the society so that he may become a useful citizen and show repentance over his past punishment.

Society uses punishment as a means of preventing its members from violating both its formal and its written laws, although its confidence in the effectiveness of this technique is not great. There is little enough justification for confidence, for time and again the threat of punishment has failed to keep the members of society in line. At numerous times, in the history of civilization, the punishments prescribed for various crimes have been most severe. Yet despite such inhuman penalties, transgression occurred.

Another and unfortunate characteristic of punishment is that often it tells the victims only what not to do but does not tell what to do. It does not build up by the process of reinforcement of a strong positive way of reacting. It builds up only an avoidance of a certain way of acting. These are some of the possible reasons why punishment may be ineffective. How then, may punishment operate when it is effective?  

As we understand it today, punishment seems to operate in the same manner as the avoidance learning. Behaving in a certain fashion leads to painful consequences and we tend to move away from these painful consequences. At the same time, through a process like conditioning, the stimuli that have been associated with the painful consequences acquire the tendency to produce anxiety reactions. Since we tend to escape from an environment that produces anxiety, we tend to make a different response than the one which has been associated with the pain of punishment. This punishment works not by weakening the original habit but by substituting a conflicting response to the same stimulus. Different people employ different methods to prevent the reoccurrence of some action – which a person or a society disapproves of. For example, the dimension of parental behavior to the vigor of punishment varies from mild slaps to sound spankings and from deprivation of highly valued activities to deprivation of ones of minor worth in the offender's esteem. Some people employ words which employ to the child that his action has caused them to lose some of their affection for the offender. This technique has proved a very effective manner of control. However, we must keep in view that the object of punishment is to see that the offender realizes his mistake, crime or sin and in future avoids to indulge in such actions. So the approach should be basically a corrective one.