6 Kinds of Punishment

6 Kinds of Punishment

Punishments prevalent in different human societies were torturous, cruel, barbaric, and inhumane. Over time, it became civilized and humane. Humanitarianism started to assert its influence on penology towards the end of the eighteenth century.

It began appealing to the conscience of human beings, and public opinion molded in line with liberal ethos, demanding that severity should be kept to a minimum in any penal program.

Different human societies utilized various types of punishments to implement penal policies. There have been seven types of punishments that human societies have so far used to penalize offenders.

Physical Torture / Corporal Punishment

In early human societies, people believed that severe and barbaric punishment should be awarded to criminals. It would deter other people in society from committing criminal activities and pacify the anger of the victim; otherwise, anarchy would follow.

Physical punishment was seen as the best method of penalty that set an example before other people in society. Corporal punishments were executed by different means, which are briefly discussed below.


Flogging was a very common penalty among all the corporal punishments. It was executed as a method to punish notorious criminals. In the Indian subcontinent, the Whipping Act of 1864 recognized this mode of punishment.

It was repealed and replaced by a similar Act in 1909 and was finally abolished in 1955. Flogging was common in almost all countries. In most Middle Eastern countries, flogging is still used as a method of punishment, even to this day.

In different countries, varied instruments and methods were utilized to execute flogging. Straps and whips with a single lash were used in some countries, while short pieces of rubber hose were used in others.

In Russia, the flogging instrument was made of dried and hardened thongs of rawhide, interspersed with wires having hooks at their end, which could enter and tear the flesh of the criminal. Because of its cruelty, this type of flogging has totally disappeared from Russia.

The effectiveness of the punishment of flogging is a debatable issue. Most hardened criminals who were flogged repeated their crimes. Referring to this fact, some penologists argue that flogging is not effective for hardened criminals.

However, in the case of minor offenses like eve-teasing, drunkenness, vagrancy, and shoplifting, whipping may prove effective.


Mutilation was another notorious form of corporal punishment prevalent in England, Denmark, India, and in Asian and African countries. Under this system, one or both of the thief’s hands were chopped off, or anyone’s private parts were cut off if they committed any sex crime.

Supporters of mutilation argue that it served both the deterrent and retributive purposes of punishment. Because of its notoriety and cruelty, this punishment completely disappeared from most countries.

However, some Muslim countries still retain this method to penalize criminals and deter others from criminal activities.

In 1992 in Malaysia, Islamic laws permitting the amputation of thieves’ hands were questioned on legal and ethical grounds. In the USA, for sex offenders, voluntary (not mandatory) chemical castration has been permitted in some jurisdictions in recent years.


In the medieval period, criminals were subjected to death by stoning. Many countries followed this type of punishment.

Stoning criminals to death is still in vogue in some Islamic countries. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and some Middle Eastern countries utilize this method when penalizing criminals. Wrongdoers who committed sex crimes are subjected to death by stoning.

A small trench is dug in the ground, and the convicted person is made to stand there. Then, people surround him and throw stones at him until he dies.

This punishment is cruel in nature, but because of its deterrent effect, sex crimes against women remain controlled in these countries.


Another form of notorious and barbaric punishment was the pillory. The head and hands of the criminal were locked in an iron frame, and he was compelled to stand with the frame. The criminal was tied or locked in such a manner that he could not move his body.

During pillory, the criminal was whipped or branded. If he committed any serious offense, he was stoned, and sometimes, his ears were nailed to the beams of the pillar.

Hardened criminals and dangerous offenders were nailed to walls and shot or stoned to death. Through the pillory, the physical movement of the criminal was restrained, which had a painful effect on him.

Its deterrent effect was believed to impact the criminal and other members of society positively. In public places, condemned prisoners were hanged to death, and it was a common mode of pillory punishment in most parts of the world until the middle of the twentieth century.

Social Degradation

Reduction of social status was used as a mode of punishment in different societies. The offender’s social status was reduced temporarily or permanently by inflicting shame and humiliation on the offender. It caused severe suffering to the offender.

This method of punishment flourished from the beginning of the sixteenth century and continued until the end of the seventeenth century, but it is not absent today. Various societies utilized different methods to reduce prestige.

Societies used the ducking stool, the stocks, the pillory, the brand, and other devices of corporal punishment not only as a means to subject criminals to physical suffering but also to reduce the status of offenders.

Social degradation as a mode of punishment was used for minor offenses like scolding, giving short weights, forgery, and blasphemy.

Depriving criminals of their various rights was another form of degrading criminals. This punishment was inflicted in case of committing “infamous” and certain other crimes.

In the Roman Republic, when a criminal was convicted, infamy resulted as a consequence of the conviction, and it meant the loss of the right to vote, to hold office, to represent another in the courts, to be a witness, to manage the affairs of another, and the abridging of the right to marry.

The publicity of the trial produced infamy, which was subsequently followed by the loss of rights of citizenship; offenders were branded or mutilated to show that they had committed a crime so they had to suffer infamy.

Persons convicted of treason or felony might be deprived of their real or personal property during the feudal period by bills of attainder. For the same cause, convicted persons lost their right to inherit or transmit property and all rights in the courts. This was known as civil death.

Branding was used in oriental and classical societies as a form of social degradation.

Under Roman penal law, criminals were branded with an appropriate mark on their forehead for identification and subjecting them to public ridicule. In England, criminals were branded until 1829, when it was finally abolished. In the U.S.A., the letter “T” was branded on the forehead of burglars, and the letter “R” was branded on the forehead of repeat offenders.

In Maryland, the letter “B” was branded on the forehead of those who were convicted of the offense of blasphemy. In India, branding was in practice during the Mogul period. In American colonies, all corporal punishments were considered

infamous punishments. During the middle of the twentieth century, various rights might be lost in various states by the commission of infamous crimes.

Those rights were the right of suffrage, the right to hold public office, the right to make a contract, the right to practice certain professions, the right to marry, the right to divorce in case the mate was convicted of a crime, and the right to migrate to a foreign country.

Currently, we are observing the deprivation of a license in reckless driving and suspension and compensation in various games for the violation of the law.

Infamous punishments were designed to isolate the offender from other members of society.

With the aid of this punishment, social distance increased between the offender and the law-abiding citizens of the country. In recent society, the protection of social and political institutions is the principal consideration, with the suffering of the offender being secondary.

Financial Loss

Fines have been imposed for very non-serious types of offenses and for violations of traffic rules or revenue laws.

Fines may be imposed as a mode of penalty for property crimes and minor offenses. Payment of compensation to the victim and payment of the costs of the prosecution constitute other forms of financial penalties.

The real problem of imposing a penalty lies in how to realize the amount of the fine. Financial penalties are usually realized under the threat of forfeiture of property and the threat of incarceration.

The amount of the fine is recovered from the income of the offender. Determining the fine also creates another difficulty, as the amount should be calculated judiciously. The court must take into account the gravity of the offense and the pecuniary ability of the offender to pay the fine.

In addition to the death sentence or long-term imprisonment, a fine should not be enforced. It may create an unnecessary burden on the family members of the convicted person. The Supreme Court of India in Adamji Umar Dalal V. State observed that:

“In imposing a fine, it is necessary to have as much regard to the pecuniary circumstances of the accused person as to the character and magnitude of the offense.”

Security Bond

In the strictest sense of the term, a security bond for good behavior is not a punishment. It is some sort of restraint on the offender to reinforce their normal life.

On condition of good behavior, the court may defer the sentence of any offender. Conditional release of an offender with the hope of transforming them into a law-abiding citizen is used as an effective instrument of corrective justice.

Expanding corrective justice is implemented through different devices, and a security bond is one of those means.

The offender gets an opportunity to become a law-abiding citizen while remaining in open society. Their chance of reformation is better than that of those who are imprisoned or confined in any correctional center or reformatory.


All societies have banished some criminals, particularly political criminals who were transported to far-off places. The wholesale deportation of offenders is a recent phenomenon. In early societies and in ancient Rome, banishment was used. It was implemented in two ways.

First, criminals were prohibited from coming into a specific territory, namely the city of Rome, or they were prohibited from going outside a definite territory, such as an island. In both cases, banishment might be for life or for a short time.

After ancient times, this method of punishment was not frequently used. Transportation was legalized in 1597 in England, but the law was not utilized a great deal until America was colonized.

A considerable proportion of the criminal population of England was sent to American colonies from 1597 to the time of the American Revolution.

The American colonies became independent at the end of the eighteenth century, and then the British took the policy to transport their criminal population to Australia, and they continued this banishment till 1867. One hundred thirty-four thousand three hundred-eight people were transported during this period.

Between 1787 and 1816, an average of 474 criminals were transported per year, and about 3,000 were transported between 1816 and 1838. England abandoned transportation when they found that it was not a good method of reformation or deterrence.

Moreover, American and Australian colonies opposed it, and it was expensive. Transportation has been used by many other countries in the modern period.

In the sixteenth century, Portugal sent its criminals and ill-reputed women to Brazil and subsequently sent criminals to Angola. In the eighteenth century, Spain banished its criminals to a limited extent. Since 1823, Russia has used Siberia as a penal colony.

Italy has transported some convicts to the islands along its coast since 1865. From 1763 to 1766, in 1824, and from 1851 to the present time, France has transported its criminals to some extent.

British India transported many dangerous criminals to far-off places. It was known as “Kalapani.” Notorious criminals were banished to the remote islands of Andaman and Nicobar.

They were banished so that they would not come back to India, and they would surely die in the fever-infested forests of the islands.

Transportation had a negative psychological effect on Indians as it was not seen as a good one from a religious point of view, and crossing seas was considered an outcast. During the early forties, the islands were occupied by the Japanese, and transportation came to an end. In India, it was finally abolished in 1955.


In earlier societies, imprisonment was rarely used as a mode of punishment. The early church authorities utilized imprisonment mainly because they were not permitted by law to award the death penalty.

Though church authorities used imprisonment from the fifth century, they used it extensively during the Inquisition. It was inflicted for any offense of those who professed conversion.

From about 1500 to the early part of the eighteenth century, the galleys were extensively used for confining criminals. This practice revived the ancient method of forced labor.

In time, large sailing vessels were developed to such an extent that they made the galleys unfit for competition, and until that time, the galley practice continued.

Imprisonment in England was used in a few cases in the Anglo-Saxon period. England and some other continental countries used imprisonment for very restricted groups of offenders in the last part of the thirteenth century.

About the middle of the sixteenth century, the House of Correction appeared in England. Bishop Ridley of London made a petition to the king, and he gave his palace at Bridewell for constructing a hospital for the “lewd and idle” and a place for the employment of the unemployed and the training of children.

Parliament, by an Act of 1576, provided that each county should construct a house of correction and, in 1609, provided penalties if any county failed to construct such an institution.

Rogues, vagabonds, idle persons, lewd women with illegitimate children, and men who deserted their families were committed to houses of correction. An Act of 1711 fixed three years as the maximum period of confinement in these houses of correction.

The number of offenses for which convicts might be confined was increased by subsequent legislation. The houses of correction and the common jails became similar in discipline and character by the early part of the eighteenth century.

Different countries on the continent began using houses of correction and implemented the institution a little later than in England. One Peter Rentzel observed that thieves and prostitutes became worse instead of better by the pillory. He established a workhouse in 1669 in Hamburg with the hope

that they (thieves and prostitutes) might be improved by work and religious instructions.

In 1716, a house of correction was established in Waldheim. Paupers and orphans resided on the upper floor, and criminals on the lower floor of the institution.

Complete separation of the sexes on both floors was ensured. Criminals were welcomed with ten lashes; work was made mandatory, and all the inmates had to maintain silence. Among the staff, a chaplain, a teacher, and a physician worked.

The most reputed house of correction was established in Ghent in 1775.

In the last part of the eighteenth century and the first part of the nineteenth century, the “prison reform” movement reached its peak, and it was a movement for the popularization of imprisonment as a mode of punishment.

Committing offenders to houses of correction, jails, and hulks in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was partly the basis of imprisonment, but primarily, imprisonment was used for persons awaiting trial.

Prison as a place of detention at that time was considered the best in England and America. Over time, imprisonment became the principal method of punishing serious offenders in the early nineteenth century.

Currently, imprisonment is a common and simple method of sentencing criminals to incapacitate them.

The difficulty of prison life is that prisoners have to confront the most crucial problem of adjustment because they have to cope with the new norms and values of prison life.

The prisoners lose their personal identity in the process of adjusting to prison life and turn into mere impersonal entities. Imprisonment attaches a social stigma to prisoners, making their rehabilitation quite difficult.

If anybody resides within the confinement of prison, people consider them a criminal, even after the completion of their sentence.

Many consider that real punishment begins after the convicts leave prison. People in society do not accept them as one of their members but as deviant ones on whom society puts a stigma and obstructs their rehabilitation.

In the medieval period, hardened criminals were confined in solitary prison cells without work. Through solitary confinement, criminals were eliminated from society, and they were incapacitated from repeating crimes.

Solitary confinement segregated convicts into isolated prison cells, which resulted in untimely death or insanity of the prisoner. The provisions relating to solitary confinement are contained in sections 73 and 74 of the Penal Code.

The Madras High Court in Munnuswamy V. State held that “the imposition of the sentence of solitary confinement, although legal, should be very rarely exercised by a criminal court.”

The penal code contains 51 sections providing for a sentence of imprisonment for life. The government may commute a sentence of imprisonment for life of either description for a term not exceeding 20 years under section 55 of the penal code.