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Using material from Item A and elsewhere assess sociological explanations on the patterns on punishment (21 marks)
Punishment is deliberately causing harm to an individual as a consequence for their actions. Punishment has been used for centuries, however, the patterns have slightly changed. For instance Foucault argues punishment in modern society is based on surveillance and has become more self-discipline, than it was in the past where people especially before the 19th century faced harsher punishments like death. Many sociological explanations including Marxism and Functionalism (as mentioned in Item A) attempt to explain the patterns in terms of punishment and the type of society and the changing patterns.
Item A argues that 'different justifications for punishment have been put forward.' For example many especially social control agencies argue that punishment can rehabilitate offenders. For instance the main aim of prisons is to reform offenders by for instance offering anger management classes. This could explain why prisons are being used far more as the main form of punishment. For instance between 1993-2005 the prison population increased by 70% and according to a recent BBC article its continuing to grow. However, many criticise this explanation of prisons actually rehabilitating offenders as nearly two thirds re offend after release, proving its not reforming people. So this explanation of why prison is being used as the main form of punishment whilst valid doesnt fully give us an understanding of why the government are declining to use them more.
Item A goes onto discuss the functionalist explanation between the patterns of punishment and the type of society. Durkheim argues that traditional societies favor retributive punishment, where punishment is harsh and vengeful. This is because in traditional societies there was a lot of solidarity between members and so a collective consciousness. In comparison, modern societies factor restutive punishment where punishment is more along the terms of the offender compensating the victim, so is less harsh. This explanation is usuefl as it fits in with the features of contemporary society, where people are far more independent and this can explain why now punishment is less harsh as there is less collectiveness. However, the functionalist explanation has been criticised.. Some argue that restutive and retributive punishment doesnt explain the patterns in both modern and traditionall societies, as both punishment operate in both societies. For instance when discussing crime and sentencing the media show emotion. Similarly, in traditional societies often money was given to stop blood fueds.
Marxists also put forward an explanation to the patterns of punishment. They argue that mainly the lower class are punished. For example according to the Guardian, young working class boys are twice as likely to be imprisoned. Althussar argues that this is because punishment is a form of repressive state apparatus, where the capitalists force the lower class to comply, by suppressing threatening actions of the working class, and preventing crime through the threat of punishment. Thompson argues that this also explains punishment in traditional societies, where the aristocracy used punishments like hanging to those who committed theft, maintaining their economic power.This explanation is useful but has limitations as it doesnt explain why occasionally members of the capitalist class do get punished for crimes such as white collard crimes.
More recently new forms of punishment are being used with the aim of offering an alternative to prison, Such forms are community based like community service and probation. However, sociologists argue that these are not an alternative as the prison population is progressively increasing. Cohen instead argue that they are a form of penetrating control deeper into society. This is useful as it can explain why surveillance such as CCTV is increasing becoming used as a form of punishment and to prevent crime.
Overall, there are many explanations to the patterns of punishment to explain punishment in different societies and the changing patterns. Marxist explanation is useful as it can be linked to today's society, but it doesn't explain punishment of the upper class. Functionalists have the most useful explanation as its explanation links to the features of today's society and explains why we have moved from a society which used harsh punishments to one that does not.