750 Words Essay on the Reformative Theory of Punishment

According to this theory, the aim of punishment is to educate or reform the offender himself. Punishment is inflicted on a criminal in order to reform or educate him. This theory is commonly accepted at the present time, because it is in harmony with the humanitarian sentiments of the age. This theory does not involve treating a person as a thing; a criminal is punished for his own good- not merely for the good of others. Reformation or education of the criminal is the aim of punishment.

The Reformative theory is supported criminology. Criminology regards every crime as a pathological phenomenon a mild form of insanity, an innate or acquired physiological defect. Therefore the criminals ought to be cured, rather punished. They ought to he treated in hospitals, asylums, and reformatories.

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Thus, according to criminology, crimes are not delibrate violations of the moral law. They are due to physiological defects. Constitutional defects compel criminals to commit crimes. For example, in Kleptomania a criminal is compelled to steal. Punishment therefore should take the form of detention in asylums and reformat or treatment in hospitals- The supporters of this view are called criminal anthropologists.


But every crime is not a case of insanity order to physiological defect. There are crimes proper. They are not due to physiological defects. They are deliberate violations of the moral law. They ought to be punished. But the Kleptomaniac is not punished but excused. He suffers from a mental disease which may be due to physiological defect.

The crimes which are deliberate breaches of the moral law should be punished, because they are not caused by physiological defects. But in insanity the man is alienated from himself and his acts are not his own. He ceases to be a person, and may therefore be treated as a thing. He looses self-control and should therefore be controlled from without. If we reduce all crimes to pathological phenomena, we sap the every foundation of our moral judgements, and undermine merit and demerit, reward and punishment. To resolve all crimes into insanity is not conductive to clef thinking.

The Reformative theory is supported also by criminal sociology. It regards crimes as out comes of unfavourable social circumstances. Crimes are due to social inequalities, maladjustments and corruptions. For example, theft is due to poverty. Therefore recession of crimes without improving the social and economic conditions of criminals is useless and injurious. Crimes can be prevented only if the human society is reconstructed on the basis of justice and equity. The supporters of this view are called criminal sociologists.

Some crimes are due to social inequalities. For example, some thefts are due to poverty. But all the crimes cannot be attributed to social maladjustments. Crimes are deliberately committed by persons, who are not necessarily under adverse pecuniary or social conditions. Rich merchants deliberately indulge in black marketing, hoarding, adulteration of food, and other criminal acts. To ascribe all crimes to social distempers is to miss the distinctive character of crimes.


If punishment can reform the offender, it serves its purpose well. But punishment does not always reform an offender; sometimes it hardens a criminal in criminal habits. A kind treatment may sometimes produce a better effect than punishment; it may be more favourable to the reformation of the offender.

Sometimes forgiveness may bring home to the criminal his quit and lead him to repentance and reformation. Forgivingness by the offended person sometimes melts the heart of a criminal, and transforms his nature. It is evident that the reformative theory cannot justify capital punishment, because the hanged man cannot be reformed.

Frieud and his followers hold that crimes are often committed under the influence of repressed complex is sex wishes and spite wishes – due to thwarted sex wishes.

Therefore the treatment of such forms of crime should be medical or educational, rather than purely punitive. Such criminals should be treated by the psycho­analytic method.


In such cases, the remedy lies in unearthing the repressed unconscious complexes and bringing them to the level of consciousness, tracing them to their causes, and directing them to the socially acceptable channels. But all crimes are not generated by repressed complexes.

There are some crimes which are due to wilful violation of the moral law by normal persons. Such criminals should be punished adequately to vindicate the authority of the moral law.

Punishment convinces them of the righteousness of punishment. It makes them repent for their crime and reform themselves. It prevents them and others from committing similar crimes.

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