Discipline and Punishment in Criminal Justice


Criminal justice is one of the greatest tools in the society that promotes law and order in the society. Every society is identified by certain specific values. Failure to obey particular rules calls for administration of criminal justice through discipline measures which, in most cases, involve punishing an individual so as to change the behavior of that individual and to stop such crimes in the society. However, conformity to the waves of change is a great challenge to the effectiveness of criminal justice. The main aim of this analytical research paper is to discuss the role of discipline and punishment in the administration of criminal justice in relation to obedience, conformity, propaganda, behavior modifications and behavior changes.

Most researchers are of the opinion that punitive measures do not always lead to the change of behavior nor do they enforce obedience to law on the rest of the community. Criminal and antisocial behavior observed in adults is rooted in childhood and adolescent stages of development. As children grow or adolescents mature, they come in contact with the fast changing world with a lot of issues not observed among their parents or adults. They are then presented with two natural choices, whether to obey the societal rules as guided by parents, or conform to what the changing world is presenting. The latter also includes the danger of children trying as much as they could to copy or follow instructions that are provided by advertisements on the media houses (Sanson, et al.).

Criminal justice refers to the process of ensuring vindication of an innocent person by subjecting the suspect and the complainant through fair trial process. This is in the light of the constitution of the state and evidence available for defense. Our society is not static, but undergoes evolution and change; hence the criminality concept also evolves and changes. This means there are many ideas of what constitutes a “wrong” in different societies. Now that the world has been reduced to a global village, it will be so easy to bow to strong influence of conformity to other cultures or new ideologies in order to fit. For instance, the sale of chewing gum in Singapore is illegal but in other countries it is the order of the day.

There are two aspects that dictate the behavior of individuals in the society. These are societal rules and personality principals that rule an individual’s conscience from within. When one commits an act that contravenes a societal rule, he or she attracts administration of punishment whose magnitude is sufficient to totally change the person’s attitude hence correction. However, a person’s identity cannot be changed despite its responsibility for a number of crimes.

As the world changes and advances towards an era governed by technology and civilization so as the people in it. The role of societal rules in maintaining order will soon become redundant as individualism is replacing it. Some social aspects, such as propaganda, cannot be defined well whether as a crime or not by many societal rules, especially in a non-democratic society where people’s rights are not given priority. Now the world and people are not going to abide by societal rules but rather each person’s change of behavior is to be charged by that change of specific law. This state of affairs can only exist in a society of liberal individuals and therefore most criminal justice laws have to be very flexible.

Sometimes there is denial of justice when people obey under pressure. Sometimes children are under bad parents or guardians who force them to obey to do things which they know, even with their naïve conscience, are wrong.  Normally children are not vindicated. It is troubling to realize that forcing obedience upon children, fellow workers or even prisoners against their conscience is criminal justice against them. They do, see or think things out of compulsion and not at all what their honest conscience tells them. 

It is also sometimes amazing how people are compelled to do what they always believe or feel is wrong or harmful to them or others. In particular could be mentioned dramatic phenomenon, when Stanly Milgram (1974) forced a group of participants to violate norms of good behavior. They had a belief that they were assisting in an experiment meant for learning, in which the researcher has constantly been commanding them to transmit an ever-increasing electric shock.  40% of the participants had thought that what they were doing was lethal as for voltages and could cause death but they went ahead in destructive obedience to administer procedures. The assumption, that ordinary people can rarely hurt other innocent people even if they are ordered to do so at gun point, were proved wanting by a panel of psychiatrists.  However, there is a prediction that a class termed as rare sociopaths is more than ready to inflict pain on others without differing in their conscience (Krueger & Funder).

There are many examples of social misbehavior through which norms of action are characteristically violated by people. This includes conformity in which people accept to be guided by either what the majority of their neighbors or colleagues are doing, failure to help those in need and also obedience to the authorities dominated by malevolence. People also break social norms that dictate reasoning through committing cognitive errors, which include misuse of self-enhancement, social information and when characteristics which are normally dispositional are so readily attributed to. There is an opinion that intuition of people regarding behavior in society, as well as cognition of the further compounds the negative phenomena. It is important to understand how someone’s social behavior contributes to violation of the expected standards of conduct. The research shows that giving in to social influence is very fundamental to violating norms of empathy and independence that govern one’s behavior (Krueger & Funder).

Behavior is characterized by a couple of virtues which refer to intelligent dispositions. These dispositions are also characterized by how we respond to emotions, decisions or deliberation in addition to more overt behavior. There is no consensus on the general relationship between virtues and appropriate behavior. This is because lack of appropriate behavior does not imply the person also lacks the virtue associated with that behavior. On the other hand, if an individual has an appropriate behavior it does not directly mean possession of the relevant virtue.  However, global virtue should translate to a specific virtuous behavior, and inconsistency in virtuous behavior provides evidence of global virtue lacking (Badhwar).

Everybody in our society has noble responsibility of stopping or rather reducing the level of crime that has cost our society economic growth and also lives of many people. To uphold criminal justice, we must end the influence of socially sanctioned hatred in which people prejudice others in order to feel more important than them. This normally kills somebody’s self-esteem and thus subjecting him vulnerable to committing evil.

Instilling the right discipline requires the right tool that will bring about an overhaul change of behavior.  Due to change, conformity is slowly replacing the traditional norms and thus those who are slow to accept this new trend of events need to be careful lest they unjustly victimize those flexible to change. Conformity basically refers to the tendency of people to violate the normal social expectation so that they can honor their own preferred perceptions and have disagreements with others tolerated. It has been argued that bizarre judgments which to a large extent are about the relative lengths of lines partly comprised of social pressures to conform but unfortunately with no ability to resist. The best way of instilling the right discipline, which is also relatively cost effective, is preventing these behaviors from developing. This is through establishment of either family or community based programs such as schools, church conferences and counseling sessions.

If no early treatment is achieved and bad behaviors have developed, models that can conquer with psychological principles will deal with such situation effectively. These principles have been established for the purpose of behavior change. Employment in prisons is only an alternative way of developing acceptable behavior through punishment. It should provide skills for the offender to adopt acceptable ways of meeting his necessities upon release.

Punishment is the most commonly used tool of commanding obedience of offenders to the law. However, when an offender is incorrigible or the punishment is too weak, its efficacy is lost. If an offender avoids punishment that does not lead to stopping unacceptable behavior but to avoiding being apprehended on detection. Punishment should not be so extreme to provoke defiance and not too lenient to be ignored. It should also be long lasting enough to make the offender know that if he offends, he will be detected and punished again (Sanson, et al.).

Corporal punishment has been used for long as a primary prevention tool for offences. However, many state governments have adopted new policies banning this form of behavior modification method. Alternatively, they should put in place various management techniques that encourage positive behavior change which will be a sure way of instilling discipline and safety in schools. Better still, there are non-violent strategies of resolving conflicts such as peer mediation and others that enhance total school community to eliminate victimization and bullying in schools (Sanson, et al.).

Some harsh methods of punishment, such as imprisonment, are not meeting their objective of reducing crime by punishing the criminal and deterring others from committing crime. Instead, it is likely to cause recidivism, when former prison inmates have a greater chance of their former crimes to be committed repeatedly. This is because prison enables and indirectly encourages the delinquents to scheme that aids the future criminal activities. It also throws the inmate’s family into destitution, thus pushing delinquents indirectly to some dominant groups such as agents of controlled illegality, prostitution networks which have actually existed from 19th century. The police, who are entrusted the duty of preventing illegal acts, are agents and intermediaries who benefit from the enormous profits obtained from selling sexual pleasure (Sheridan).

 Character transformations of good young men are pivoted on a number of psychological processes that perverts their feeling, thoughts and actions. For instance, the fundamental need to belong, the need to be in association and acceptance by others has been diverted by converted conformity. This is due to emergent norms. It has also been proposed that the basic desire for one to be ‘in’ and not ‘out’ is powerful driving and irresistible force that is behind transforming behavior of human beings and thus pushes them across the border line of good and evil.

The impact of peer pressure is one of the forces that compel young people to do anything in order to gain acceptance. However, it all begins with self-pressure from within that attracts others. The pressure is so powerful that an individual can do anything to make sure he or she does not face the terrifying rejection. Therefore, for authorities to command obedience from their subjects, it is neither the punishment nor awarding the good ones will work, but the double-edged weapon. That is the lure of acceptance which must be coupled and intertwined with fear of rejection. For instance, a forty year old woman is said confess having provided five high school boys with alcohol and drugs as well as having sex with them for a full year to an extent she felt one of them. Her inner ring was accessed by cheating the desire to belong (Lewis).


There are many factors that contribute to the orderliness, tranquility, economic and psychological growth. Criminal justice is one of the major factors that ensure that crime is not only eliminated but also prevented. This involves encouraging and upholding values, such as constructive obedience, conformity to new ideologies that promote behavior change and modification, control peer influence and embrace better ways of conflict resolution. Also, for the purpose of correcting those who commit crimes, better methods should be used according to the crime and ensure that victims of crimes are vindicated. Children need to be trained early on obedience to authority while adolescents need to be guided on how to adopt change to avoid conformation to destructive practices and behavior.