一个文明民主社会自诩其法治观察。违反法律将受到公平和公平的惩罚。惩罚对罪犯的目的，首先，惩罚罪犯，在希望，在监禁的情况下，对个体行为的社会危害将被删除；同时，作为对罪犯的威慑，和其他社会成员的。在美国，例如，二百万的市民被监禁，而把每个星期死亡是两个或两个以上的罪犯。[ 1 ] Garland指出，当代社会接受这种情况的生活，但它可以被视为潜在的罪犯，国家权力的有效威慑（辖区内）结束罪犯的生命。 在刑法理论中一个激进的发展的例子是所谓的“康复理想”的下降[ 2 ]这基本上看到了取代传统的刑罚制度的目的，以恢复罪犯，从而打击犯罪。这可以在句子中通常给出的方式看，在所有但最麻烦的囚犯监狱康复计划的下降。这个理想最近的报应和惩罚回报取代“苛刻”。在上个世纪的大部分时间里，这些都过时了，但却得到了复兴。（3）这可能被视为国家刑罚中最具争议性的功能，因为明确的惩罚性判决激怒了自由主义理论家。当然，在那些维持死刑的美国国家中，最明显的是，同样严厉的惩罚激怒了许多这一边的大西洋。
A civilised democratic society prides itself on its observation of the Rule of Law. Breach of the law will be punished in a proportionate and fair manner. Punishments inflicted on the offenders by the state aim, first and foremost, to penalise the offender, in the hope that, in the case of a custodial sentence, the danger to society of the individual reoffending will be removed; and concurrently, to act as a deterrent both to the individual offender, and to other members of society. In the USA, for example, two million citizens are incarcerated, while two or more criminal offenders are put to death each week. As Garland notes, contemporary society accepts and lives with this situation, but it can be seen as an effective deterrent to prospective criminals that the state has the power (in that jurisdiction) to end the offender’s life.
An example of a radical development in penal theory has been the decline of the so-called ‘rehabilitative ideal’. This has essentially seen a replacement of the conventional aim of penal systems to rehabilitate the offenders, thereby combating crime. This can be seen in the manner of sentences that are commonly given out, and the decline of rehabilitative programmes in prisons for all but the most troublesome convicts. This ideal has recently been replaced by a return of retributive and ‘harsh’ punishments. These went out of fashion for a large part of the last century, but have enjoyed a renaissance. This can perhaps be seen as the most controversial function of state punishment, as explicitly punitive sentences have angered liberal theorists. While this is, of course, most manifest in those states of the USA that maintain the death sentence, similarly harsh punishments have angered many this side of the Atlantic.