The Penological Principle That Heavily Influences Contemporary Punishment in Australia

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The most prevalent criminological theory that guides the majority of modern punishments in Australia is deterrence. Murphy et al. (2016) define deterrence as a reaction to crime in which punishment is used to deter future criminal behavior. Politically speaking, the government's duty is to defend its citizens. Due to their propensity to stop incidents before they actually happen, deterrent strategies are more effective at safeguarding people from the consequences of crime. The use of deterrent strategies of dealing with crime is successful in systems where information can easily be disseminated and accessed by the people. Therefore, an individual will weigh the costs of committing the crime versus the benefits before they make a decision. Crimes such are deception, theft, robbery and drug offences are tied to certain monetary benefits. By imposing monetary punishments on such crimes, the policymakers aim at helping potential criminals weigh the benefits versus the impending costs.

According to Australian Institute of Criminology (2016) monetary orders account for over 60% of sentences handed to offenders in Australian courts between 2011 and 2016. The interest of any regime is to ensure that it meets the needs of the population. The correctional and justice institutions are associated with high operational costs that were traditionally met from the public kitty. Therefore, the society views the convicts as a burden. By soliciting fines from most of these individuals, the criminal justice system becomes self sustainable. The government also believes that by making the cost of crime higher than the benefits, it is able to deter a large number of individuals. This is possible in a system where many criminals are caught up with and prosecuted. In such a system, a potential criminal is almost sure that the authorities will catch up with them and that there are high chances that they will meet the cost of crime.

In the future, Australia is likely to lean towards punishments that are aimed at managerialism. Changes in the society are helping criminals gain advantage by reducing their chances of being detected and arrested by the law enforcement departments. For instance, arresting and charging individuals involved in cybercrime is becoming a more complicated activity for law enforcers as inventions in this field increase. This renders the due process unnecessary. The main interest of the government becomes protection of the likely victims. For instance, criminals have been targeting electronic money. In this case, the best intervention is to ensure that every person is well-educated. This will enable them take the necessary precautions that prevents them from becoming victimized.

Question2: Selective Incapacitation in Contemporary Criminal Justice Practice

Incapacitation refers to the process of depriving an offender the capacity to get involved in criminal activities. Selective incapacitation involves identifying high-risk offenders and maintaining them in prison. There are limited correctional resources in Australia. Therefore, stakeholders are keen on ensuring that only the most deserving criminals are kept within the prison facilities available. The utilization of selective incapacitation in the contemporary society first involves the process of determining the capacity of the available correctional facilities (Omaji, 2016). Once this is done, the stakeholders rank the available cases according to the likelihood of recidivism and the effect that reoffending will have on the wellbeing of the members of the society.

Selective incapacitation is relied on as a form of deterrence for the very notorious offenders. The criminal system is able to keep these individuals from the rest of the society. By doing this, both the offender and the society are protected. Offenders are likely to get hurt by members of the society seeking revenge for the crimes for which the individual was convicted. By keeping these individuals away in prison, the criminal justice system avoids unnecessary conflict.

Selective incapacitation also contributes to general deterrence. An individual understands that if they show a certain level of notoriousness and likelihood to recede, they will have their freedom taken away as a way of protecting the rest of the society. This knowledge makes them more conscious about their actions. Therefore, individuals are likely to desist from actions that threaten their freedom.

Increasing the severity of a punishment does little in deterring a crime. Individuals who are incarcerated in the process of selective incapacitation view the whole process as a punishment. Therefore, these individuals do not know much about the sanctions of the specific crimes. As a result, they relate all crimes to imprisonment and this leads to an increase in recidivism (Omaji, 2016). This situation van be prevented by informing the incarcerated individuals about the whole process and the criteria on which they were selectively incapacitated. If this is done in the future, it is likely that some of these individuals will reform and be ready to be incorporated into the rest of the society.

One of the reasons why imprisonment is being discouraged in the contemporary justice systems is that it desensitizes an individual to the threat of future imprisonment (Daly and Sarre, 2016). Therefore, an individual who becomes legible for selective incapacitation is likely to worry less about the consequences of their actions because they are already used to the prison conditions.

Question 3: How Assessment Influence the Sanctions That Offenders Receive

Assessment is a process aimed at determining the responsivity of an offender to a program or sanction. It is important that stakeholders in the criminal justice system come up with a system to assess the offenders after some time in order to determine their needs and risks. Assessment helps in determining the likelihood of the offender to reoffend. The process also aims at informing individuals in the criminal justice system about the offending-related needs. Once the needs have been identified, professions classify them and determine the best way to meet them in order to ensure that they reduce chances of recidivism (Bartels, 2015). Depending on the findings and conclusions made during the assessment process, certain factors within the sanctions are either maintained, enhanced or eliminated.

Assessment in the Australian criminal justice system have been modified to concentrate more on the community and the offender than before (Shepherd et al., 2014). The assessment process is aimed at meeting the needs of the offender while at the same time ensuring that the sanctions do not compromise the expectations of the community and other stakeholders on the offender. Assessments are aimed at protecting the individuals who are predisposed to victimization by the activities of the offender. The risks that the offenders pose are important in the assessment process because they help the practitioner to not only protect other people but also deal with the issues affecting the offender effectively (Bartels, 2015).

Assessments have become an integral part of the process of applying sanctions. The individuals within the criminal justice system have the opportunity to observe the progress of the offender and make inferences. In the contemporary criminal justice systems, assessments are being done beyond the individual level by both the practitioners and the academia. The results and inferences made from such assessments influence the decisions made at the institutional and national level. This means that the condition of the offender in reaction to certain sanctions has far-reaching implications on the future of such sanctions. The documentation of these assessments ensure that they are availed for reference by future practitioners and the academia.

There is need that assessments be integrated in the process of applying sanctions and the progress of the offender be officially documented by both the correctional and the legal institutions. This process will benefit both the offender and the whole field. The community and other stakeholders such as victims and relatives of the offender should also be allowed access on the assessment results when necessary.

Question 4: How Contemporary Correctional Sanctions Achieve General Deterrence

The contemporary world is characterized by better connectivity where the process of disseminating and receiving information is easier. The general public, including criminals, are conversant with the tends within the criminal justice system. One of the key strengths of any criminal justice system is the ability to catch up with the majority of offenders and take action against them (Clinard et al., 2014). The certainty of being caught increases the deterrent effect among likely offenders. Once information about conviction of different offenders reaches the society, they view the criminal justice system as effective. Therefore, members of the society associate crime with punishment. Contemporary correctional sanctions are only effective a deterrent measure of the public has access to data and information showing that these sanctions are being successfully implemented.

The current correctional sanctions are characterized by efforts to try not to separate the offender from the society. This gives them an opportunity to interact with other members of the society (Clinard et al., 2014). Friendship develops between the offenders and the members of the society. The former is likely to desist from criminal activities that will damage this relationship and even set the rest of the members of the society against them while seeking revenge. The offender thinks about the likely effect of their actions on their image and position in the society (Tilley and Sidebottom, 2017). Therefore, contemporary correctional sanctions impact both first time offences and recidivism. The community also plays a key role in reducing recidivism. Once members of the community are informed about the criminal record of an individual, they are likely to support the person and ensure that they keep them away from reoffending. For instance, if a person is convicted of deception, the people around them will be more cautious when entering any agreements with them.

According to Australian Institute of Criminology (2016) about 65% of incarcerated individuals are reoffenders. This has made researchers conclude that imprisonment has a major effect towards influencing future crime because inmates spend their time learning better crime strategies from each other.

The time spent serving traditional punishments such as imprisonment or even restorative initiatives such as probation desensitizes an individual to their threat in case of future crime. Most contemporary correctional sanctions do not have this effect. For instance, point deduction on driving licenses for hooning will make a driver more careful because the situation gets more severe as more points are deducted.

The deterrent effect of any form of punishment can only be felt if likely offenders are well informed about the punishment. The criminal justice system should be configured in such a way that information is easily disseminated and that all the members of the society understand the consequences of each offence. The effect can also be enhanced by improving the capabilities of the law enforcers to catch up with the offenders. Once the offenders are well informed that the law enforcement system will catch up with them, they will weigh the likely gains of the crime against the correctional sanctions. Therefore, they are likely to desist from committing offences.

Question 5: Application of Double Jeopardy in Hooning

Hooning is one of the offences where special legislations have been enacted to allow the authorities to impose multiple sanctions on the offender. The normal penalty that was legislated for offences related to anti-social behavior in a motor-vehicle was a jail sentence. An individual who is found guilty of hooning activities is sentenced to six months imprisonment or a maximum of forty penalty units. This is followed by impounding of the vehicle or immobilization for one and a half months (Queensland Government, 2015).

Individuals who are convicted of a repeat offence related to anti-social driving behavior have to go through the conviction process first before additional penalties are imposed. Once the person serves their term or pays the fine, their vehicle is confiscated (Queensland Government, 2015). This is double jeopardy and it is likely to create conditions for courts to perpetuate injustice. However, it is important to note that special legislation such as this one on hooning is usually enacted to combat offences whose occurrence shows the likelihood of spiraling out of control if there are no checks.

Imprisonment, fining and confiscation of the vehicle is a combination of principles of incapacitation, deterrence and managerialism. However, it is important to note that dealing with cases of hooning is aimed at protecting other road users. Applying one or two penological principles is enough to meet objectives of intervention through the criminal justice system (Voogt et al., 2014). For instance, if an individual has been caught driving dangerously but has caused no loss of lives or property in the cause, imprisonment for six months and revocation of their license will serve to protect other road users because the person is now kept off the road.

It is important to note that there are cases of hooning where it becomes necessary that double jeopardy be applied. For instance, a person who causes losses due to hooning should face imprisonment for their recklessness and also compensate the individuals affected. The special legislation on hooning permits the court to give more than two penalties for a single offence of hooning. When a person is sentenced to imprisonment for a traffic offence, the victims of their reckless behavior should also be compensated. If these individuals cannot meet the fine and the compensation, their vehicle can be confiscated and sold to meet the costs (Queensland Government, 2015). In case the value of the vehicle does not meet the compensation and the fines, the person should be made to clear the balance once they finish serving their term. Therefore, double jeopardy is justified in hooning offences depending on the circumstances. However, the court should avoid this situation where no losses occurred in the course of committing the crime. The criminal justice system should only concentrate on securing other road users by applying deterrence and incapacitation principles.


Australian Institute of Criminology. (2016). Chapter 4: Criminal courts. Retrieved from

Bartels, L. (2015). Swift and certain sanctions: Is it time for Australia to bring some HOPE into the criminal justice system?. .

Clinard, M. R., Quinney, R., & Wildeman, J. (2014). Criminal behavior systems: A typology. Routledge.

Daly, K., & Sarre, R. (2016). . Criminal justice system: Aims and processes.

Murphy, K., Bradford, B., & Jackson, J. (2016). Motivating compliance behavior among offenders: Procedural justice or deterrence?. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 43(1), 102-118.

Omaji, P. (2016). 30_Custodial Sentencing in Australia's Juvenile Justice System.

Quensland Government. (2015). Sentencing fines and penalties for offences. Retrieved from

Shepherd, S. M., Luebbers, S., Ogloff, J. R., Fullam, R., & Dolan, M. (2014). The predictive validity of risk assessment approaches for young Australian offenders. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 21(5), 801-817.

Tilley, N., & Sidebottom, A. (Eds.). (2017). Handbook of crime prevention and community safety. Taylor & Francis.

Voogt, A., Day, A., & Baksheev, G. N. (2014). Risky driving in young adults: A review of the literature. Road & Transport Research: A Journal of Australian and New Zealand Research and Practice, 23(2), 50.

July 15, 2023

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