- Retribution. When someone does something wrong, they are responsible for their actions, and must pay it back.
- Deterrence. When someone does something wrong, punish them in such a way as to make anyone else who may commit that crime afraid.
- Rehabilitation.When someone does something wrong, punish them in such a way to convince them the act was wrong so that they would never do it again.
- Incapacitation. When someone does something wrong, prevent them from ever being able to do it again.
Sentencing is about retribution (as defined above). Justice demands that wrongs be righted. A thief must return what he stole, and perhaps cover the costs of the victim being without his property. The object is owned by the victim and not the thief, even while it is in the possession of the thief. One can hardly advocate rehabilitation while the thief retains the stolen property.
Deterrence is also a secondary reason in sentencing. Forms of deterrence can be draconian. Hanging men for stealing food and amputating limbs of thieves are effective deterrents, both for the criminal and citizens. But this is hardly just. The talion limits punishments to the level of the crime, thus justice is primary over deterrence.
Incapacitation is related to retribution, it is the last step for a recalcitrant criminal. The criminal's history is such that his future is predictable. One could say he is being punished for the crimes he is bound to commit.
Thus retribution (and incapacitation) are primary, and deterrence and rehabilitation secondary. That being said, the message of the cross is rehabilitation. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Note Ezekiel's message to the Jews,
But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? (Ezekiel 18)A primary reason need not be the most important reason. Jesus offers us rehabilitation; yet he still deals to the issue of retribution via the crucifixion.
I will deal with the objections in my next post.