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Engraving by Johann Michael Mettenleiter (1765–1853) showing three punishment methods common in Europe in the 17th century: corporal punishment, the stocks and the shrew's fiddle.

Punishment is the practice of imposing something unpleasant on a subject as a response to some unwanted or immoral behavior or disobedience that the subject has displayed.

  1. to subject to pain, loss, confinement, death, etc., as a penalty for some offense, transgression, or fault: to punish a criminal.
  2. to inflict a penalty for (an offense, fault, etc.): to punish theft.
  3. to handle severely or roughly, as in a fight.
  4. to put to painful exertion, as a horse in racing.
  5. Informal. to make a heavy inroad on; deplete: to punish a quart of whiskey.
  6. to inflict punishment.

Punishment is different from discipline, in that punishment is a form of retribution as opposed to a form of training.

Mirror Punishment

A mirror punishment is a penal form of poetic justice which reflects the nature or means of the crime in the means of (often physical) punishment as a form of retributive justice — the practice of "repaying" a wrongdoer 'in kind'.

It can be an application of the lex talionis ("an eye for an eye"), but is not always proportional justice, as a similar method may be used to produce a worse or milder effect than the crime it 'retaliates'.

The simplest method of mirror punishment is to enact the same action upon the criminal as the criminal perpetrated upon the victim. For example, thieves has the same amount of money taken from them as they stole; one who strikes another is struck in the same way; one who wilfully causes another persons death is killed; and so on.

Often, however, a more esoteric method of mirror punishment is used, which implies punishing the part of the victim's body used to commit the crime. Extreme examples include the amputation of the hands of a thief, as still permitted by Sharia law, or during the Middle Ages in Europe; or disabling the foot or leg of a runaway slave. Other examples include the punishment of adulterous women by the insertion of irritating substances into their vagina (in the past hot pokers were sometimes used), or the punishment of illegal homosexual intercourse by inserting harmful objects in the rectum. A less extreme example is the putting of soap into a child's mouth for using inappropriate language (referred to in English as "washing someone's mouth out with soap").

Another method to accomplish 'poetic justice' is to mirror the physical method of the crime, e.g. executing a murderer with his own weapon, or in a more far-fetched example, boiling a counterfeiter alive (because bullion is boiled to be minted).


Examples of judicial punishments:

Examples of punishments in parenting:

Examples of school punishments:


At least three aims of punishment can be identified: revenge, repentance and deterrence. Revenge or vengeance consists of retaliation in response to perceived wrongdoing. Revenge is a hotly contested ethical issue in the post-industrial society, although modern game theory shows that without revenge it is impossible to maintain any society, let alone a just society. Repentance is the feeling and act in which one recognizes and tries to right a wrong, and gain forgiveness from someone that they wronged. Deterrence is a means of controlling a person's behavior through fear of punishment.

See also

More information on this topic is available at [ Wikipedia:Punishment ]
More information on this topic is available at [ Wikipedia:School punishment ]



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