Why do we punish people?

Punishments have been there for aeons. You just have to look at old medieval drawings and some hieroglyphs to realise that people have been punishing each other for centuries. Even old stories and fables are filled with punishments.

Now, before I continue, let me put in my disclaimer. This is an opinion piece. I have no facts to back what I’m saying, so don’t take it as such. If you don’t agree with me that’s fine too!

So why do we punish people? To draw the line between what is acceptable and what is not. To show that every action has consequences; and because the sad truth is that sometimes the only way to make someone stop doing something is to punish them. It also has to do with the basic instinct we have of not letting someone go scot free when they have done wrong. We want to stop them and we want to make them pay for what they have done.

But then we open a different can of worms.

What is considered acceptable? There are a lot of things that were once considered wrong, like being gay or having different coloured skin that we thought people should be punished for. While some of us have changed our stance on these matters, there are still those out there who think that these matters should still be punishable.

Where do we draw the line between what is acceptable and what is punishable?

Not just that, but how much punishment should one dish out for a given crime? A slap on the wrist? A lifetime in a small barred room? A fine? Death? Where does one draw the line?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. As it stands now, only making mistakes and learning from them over time, will show us the answer to these questions. And sadly there are going to be a lot of people who suffer while we figure all this out.

There was an old saying, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” the logic being that if you don’t hit a child when they do something wrong, they will turn out to be delinquents and criminals. However we have now seen that this approach actually has more negative effects on a child than benefits, with some developing debilitating mental disorders. But does that mean we should just stop punishments? No.

Every circumstance is different and so every punishment has to be different. We need to give out punishments that show people that when you break the rules, there will be consequences. But at the same time we need to draw the line on how severe a punishment should be and whether it matches the crime.

This is a complex topic that you can’t just tie a bow on and say this is how it should be done. We need to look into this carefully and work towards something better.

Anyway, that’s it for this post. I hope you liked it and I hope you have a good day ahead.

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