Crime remains the most pressing problems of all times presenting the biggest challenge to the development of any nation. Apart from the effect of fear of crime and violence of victims, it also has a devastating impact on the society. It is extremely important that all efforts should be made to reduce the level of crime in a society. But the question of concern is what measures can be taken to reduce the level of crime? What types of controls should be used so that the crime rate reduces to an optimal level? This paper will analyze the importance of punitivity in social welfare and as crime control policy. It is essential to understand the concept of punitivty as it is the attitude towards punishment. For example people in U.K. and U.S have a high punitive attitude towards young criminals. A survey was conducted to find out the punitive attitude of people and 51% of those who were surveyed said that a second time burglar should be punished.(McAra 2007) Now the question is whether punitive attitude a good method of controlling crime? The idea is to highlight the attitude towards punishment and find out ways which can help in reducing the levels of crime.
CONCERNS ABOUT CRIME
Before we understand the relation between punitivity and society, it is important to find out why crime is of so much importance in our society. In simple terms, crime can be defined a breach of rules and regulations which inflict damage on some one. Crime results in a feeling of fear and anxiety among the victim and if the sufferer has being compensated and the criminal is not penalized, it might give rise to injustice in the society. Considering this definition of crime, we can understand the fact that the basic purpose of the government is to protect people from other individuals. Since there is a strong relation between crime and social injustice, it is important to understand that criminal activities will not only give create fear and anxiety but will also contribute towards social injustice which will ultimately result in the breakdown of social and moral values. If the victim is not compensated, he will develop a feeling of revenge which will ultimately destroy the harmony of a society.
All societies impose some form of controls over its people either in the form of government regulations or in the form of social norms. The basic idea of a social control is to limit or control the behavior of an individual so that he cannot harm any other individual. Since it is the responsibility of the state to protect the rights of all individuals, it sets up certain rules and regulations which need to be followed so as to maintain peace and harmony in the society. The purpose of social controls is to protect people from other human beings living in the same society. Once rules and regulations have been formulated, it is important that the people abide by these laws. To ensure that people abide by these laws, the state again imposes certain regulations. These special regulations are called punishment. The basic idea of punishment is to protect people and punish those who do not abide by the laws. Punishment is a form of social control which his intended to act as a deterrent for people who perform unlawful actions. The effectiveness of punishment depends upon the attitude of people towards punishment. Simply it means whether people are actually afraid of a certain punishment or not. For example the punishment of a murder is death sentence. But the concern is whether this punishment is sufficient to act as a deterrent against murders.
The fear of punishment is what is known as punitive attitude. If people have fear of punishment, there is high probability that they will not kill a person. On the other hand, if the punishment is not very harsh for example, a murderer is only imprisoned for two years, then the fear of punishment is likely to be low and the crime arte will be higher in the society. The idea of social control is highly integrated with social welfare. In simple terms, social welfare is intended to promote the well being of individuals living in a society. For example, if the government is providing a certain health facility, the idea is to promote the well being of the people living in that society. The idea of social control such as punishment also intends to protect the people from others. (Larkin 2007) All forms of social controls are intended to protect the citizens. There is a debate about whether punitivity should be used as a social control against crime or are there other better solutions. Another important aspect of a welfare society is security. The concepts discussed above cannot be studied in isolation as they are all related with the idea of security. Since all individuals have a high need for a secure environment, we need to find out ways to reduce crime so that we can all live in a secure and peaceful environment. It is important to identify ways to reduce crime rate so that we can live in a serene and undisturbed society.
There are other ways to reduce crime rate and the most commonly used method is criminal rehabilitation. Proponents of this idea claim that criminals should not be punished as punishment inculcates the idea of revenge in the criminal, therefore the best way to reduce crime and violence is to rehabilitate the criminals. This refers to the moral and behavioral rehabilitation of the criminals by providing them education and an environment which can help them in reaching their potential. However, the critics to this approach claim that it is a very expensive and time consuming alternative to punishment. They also claim that once these criminals get out the rehabilitation centers, they restart their criminal activities as they are born like that and the best approach to modify their behavior is punishment. Reduction in Crime Requires Change in Society There is a certain group of people who claim that neither punishment, nor rehabilitation is a solution to crime. Instead they focus on changing the values and beliefs of the entire society. They believe that there is no magical solution to crime and reduction in criminal activities should be considered as a developing process. By inculcating true moral and integral values, the society will become an exemplary, crime free society. I personally feel that punitivity is the best approach to limit crime and introduce social justice. But it is important to understand the relation between crime and insecurity which arises among people.
CRIME AND INSECURITY
The fear of crime is a growing concern in contemporary societies.(Dina 2004) The insecurity of individuals about crime and other social problems has become a major issue in today’s world; therefore it is important to identify the factors which are resulting in growing insecurity of people. Risk Society In today’s modern world, the element of risk is growing at a very fast rate. People have the sense of insecurity and they are afraid of everything. One of the most important reasons for this growing fear is stress. People have stressful jobs and they have a fear of getting fired. If people are rich, the have a fear of crime. People also have a fear of being rejected. The reason for this risk can be attributed to the growing influence of media and advancements in technology (Monterosso2009).
Violence and crime as reported on media is a very important source of growing fear in our society. It is because of this growing fear that the society is demonstrating punitive attitude. Growing element of risk reinforces the importance of punitivity in our societies. Increased insecurity does not mean that people are getting more and more concerned about security. It simply means that people are more fearful of unforeseen events. There is a positive relation between punitivity and insecurity. People who are more insecure have a higher punitive attitude. For example people in U.S. have the highest punitive attitude and this was revealed in a surveyed which was conducted to find out the number of people who support juvenile imprisonment. 56% of those who were surveyed said that young burglars should be imprisoned. This instills the people who are more insecure are more likely to have punitive attitude and are more likely to rely on punishment as a deterrent to crime.
There is a strong negative relation between punitivity and personal responsibility. People who take up responsibility for their own action are unlikely to have a punitive attitude. This is because they blame themselves for everything they do, good or bad and claims that punitivity is an authoritative approach which is far away from the concept of free markets. According to such people punitivity is a way of blaming others for their own mistakes. The negative relation between personal responsibility and punitivity also highlights people who are insecure do not take personal responsibility of their actions. That is why; insecure people have a high punitive attitude. They blame others for their loss and are highly likely to favor their punishment.
The question whether punitivity is a central concept to social welfare and crime control is not a simple one. It involves various interrelated concepts like fear of risk and loss and the growing role of media. It is impossible to negate the importance of punitivity as a social welfare tool and a crime control policy. Even today, people have a high punitive attitude because they still believe that punishment is the most effective deterrent of crime. The fact that punishment is an effective deterrent against crime cannot be denied as it can be reinforced by a number of statistics which prove that in countries like Saudi Arabia where punishment is strict and justice prevails, the crime rate is very low. Societies like U.S. and U.K. which focus on other measures to control crime are unlikely to achieve such low crime rates. Secondly the going insecurity among our society also reinforces the importance of punitivity in social control.
Online Journal Hogan, Michael; Chiricos, Ted; Gertz, Marc,2005 . Justice Quarterly, Economic Insecurity, Blame, and Punitive Attitudes. Volume 22, Number 3, pp. 392-412(21), Online] Available at: http:// www.ingentaconnect.com [Accessed 28 February 2010].
Philip M. Larkin, September 2007, Journal of Law and Society, The ‘Criminalization’ Of Social Security Law: Towards A Punitive Welfare Society?Volume 34, Number 3, pp. 295- 320. [Accessed 28 February 2010].
Hummelsheim, Dina, Hirtenlehner, Helmut Jackson, Jonathan Oberwittler, Dietrich Bacher, Johann (2004) Does social security protect against fear of crime? A cross-national study on the impact of national welfare policies on the feeling of (in) security [Accessed 28 February 2010].
Lesley McAra(2007), Global Politics And Local Culture: Crime Control And Penal Practice In A Small Nation. [Accessed 28 February 2010].
Stephen Monterosso(2009), QUTLJJ, Punitive Criminal Justice and Policy in Contemporary Society, Volume 9 Number 1, pp. 13-25. [Accessed 28 February 2010]. Books Social Justice: Welfare ,Crime and Society (Janet Newman, 2008) [Accesses 28 Febuary 2010]