Theories of Punishment Determining Conviction and Sentencing

According to Caesare Beccaria’s scientific theory of crime, criminals are viewed as rational individuals who wish to maximize their pleasure and minimize their pain and this process may lead them to commit crime. therefore the objective of punishment under this view is to function as a deterrent, both to the criminal and others.2 In Beccaria’s view, punishment to be effective, must not be determined by judges but set by the State, it must be proportionate to the crime and it must be swift and certain.3
In arriving at a determination of whether a criminal act deserving of punishment has occurred, it is necessary to gauge the criminal actus reus and men’s rea. While the former refers to the act itself, the latter requires that the criminal should have had the intent to commit the crime, or that he did it intentionally. This helps to determine to what extent the individual should be held guilty of committing a criminal offense. In actual practice, it may often be difficult to apply Beccaria’s recipe for punishment, because it is sometimes difficult to hold a person responsible for committing the crime when circumstances in the environment may have led him to commit the crime without the act being perpetrated of his own free will.
When an individual commits a crime, but the required men’s rea for the crime cannot be effectively established, it raises the question of the extent to which the individual can be punished for the crime. For instance, the Rational Choice Theory points out that crime may result when ordinary people are exposed to “specific opportunities and situational inducements.”4 The Routine Activities Theory holds that it is the absence of a capable&nbsp.guardian and strong peer influences that may motivate crime among young people.&nbsp.&nbsp.