With this aim in view, the modem penologists have focused their attention on individualisation of offender through treatment methods. Today, old barbarous methods of punishment such as mutilation, branding, hanging, burning, stoning, flogging, amputation, starving the criminal to death or subjecting him to pillory or poetic punishment, etc. are completely abandoned.
Pillory was a method of corporal punishment under which the offender was subjected to public ridicule by exposing him to punishment in public places. Different poetic punishments were provided for different crimes. For example, cutting off hands for theft, taking off tongue for the offence of perjury, emasculation for rape, shaving off the head of a woman in case she committed a sex-crime or whipping her in Public Street and similar other modes were common forms of poetic punishment during the middle ages.
Modem penologists have substituted new forms of penal sanctions for the old methods of sentencing. The present modes of punishment commonly include imposition of monetary fines, segregation of the offender temporarily or permanently through imprisonment or externment or compensation by way of damages from the wrong-doer in case of civil injury.
The credit for introducing these penological changes goes to eminent criminologists, like Beccaria, Garofalo, Ferri, Tarde, Bentham, and others who formulated sound principles of punishment and made all out efforts to ensure rehabilitation of offenders so as to make them useful member of society once again.
Garofalo strongly recommended ‘transportation’ or ‘banishment’ of certain types of offenders who had to be seggregated from society. Modem penal systems, however, limit the punishment of transportation within the homeland so that potentiality of prisoners is utilised within the country itself. Of late, open jails, parole or probation are being intensively used for long-termers so that they can earn their livelihood while in the institution.
It was Beccaria who pioneered classical view of penology and raised voice against cruel and brutal punishments. He advocated equalised treatment for all criminals in the matter of punishment and reiterated that it was not the personality of offender but his antecedents, family background and circumstances, which had to be taken into consideration while determining his guilt and punishment.
This in other words meant greater emphasis on the ‘act’ (crime) rather than the criminal. He was equally opposed to the discretionary power of the court and argued that the function of determining appropriate punishment for different offences must be confined to the legislators and law-makers alone.
The system of trial by jury is essentially an outcome of the classical thinking which treated ‘act’ and not the ‘individual’ as the object of punishment. The function of jury is to determine the question of fact, i.e. whether the crime has been committed by the offender or not, whiles it is for the magistracy to decide the guilt or innocence of the accused in accordance with the established principles of law.
The central theme of penal policy advocated by adherents of classical school was equality of punishment for similar offences. However, the theory has fallen into disuse with the advance of knowledge through penological researches.
As a reaction to classical view, neo-classists voiced their criticism against equality of punishment on the ground that it did not respond well with the requirements of certain categories of criminals such as minors, idiots, mentally depraved offenders or those committing crime under extenuating circumstances.
The adherents of neo-classical school therefore, suggested that punishment should be awarded in varying degrees depending on the mental condition and intent of the criminal. Thus, it was for the first time that an attempt was made to shift the emphasis from ‘crime’ to ‘criminal’. The significant contribution of this school in the field of penology lies in the fact that it emphasised the need for individualised punishment.
This finally led to classification of criminals into different categories according to the genesis of their criminality. The object was to make the reformative methods of punishment more effective. Commenting on this change, Dr. P. K. Sen rightly observed that punishment is now divested of its retaliatory characteristic and is converted into a treatment method for bringing about reformation of the offender.
Among modern penologists the names of Raffaele Garofalo and Enrico Ferri deserve a special mention. Garofalo was an eminent criminologist of Italy who held distinguished positions as a Judge, a Professor of law as also a Minister of Justice and therefore, he was deeply involved in administration of criminal justice and treatment of offenders.
Out of his vast experience as a magistrate, he suggested that insane criminals should be treated leniently. In his opinion, vengeance had only a theoretical basis for penal sanctions. Surprisingly, Garofalo was a critic of reformative theory of punishment and believed that it had only a limited utility in cases of young or first offenders and it hardly served any useful purpose in case of recidivists and hardened criminals.
He also rejected deterrent punishment since it failed to determine the exact quantum of punishment for a given offence under varying social circumstances. He, however, agreed with Beccaria that retention of punishment is necessary for recognition of individual rights and social co-existence.
Enrico Ferri was yet another Italian penologist who supported positive school of criminology. He asserted that punishment was necessary for the protection of society because crimes in society are inevitable. In his opinion, punishment was a social deterrent. Since society has to defend itself against aggressors, it has a right to punish the offenders.
He strongly commended compensation as an effective sanction against crimes, particularly those relating to property. Ferri believed that dumping the prisoners in prison cells throughout their term of sentence served no useful purpose. It was wholly an unproductive process.
He therefore, suggested that inmates should be utilised to work on agricultural farms or construction sites and engaged as labour during working hours. This in his view, was in the best interest of the inmates as well as the State. He preferred indeterminate sentence to a fixed term of institutionalised sentence and recommended clinical treatment for insane criminals.
Briefly stated, it is now well recognised that prevention of crime and protection of society are the main objects of punishment. It therefore, follows that no single theory of punishment will serve the real purpose. Commenting on this aspect of penal justice, Caldwell observed:
“Punishment is an art which involves the balancing of retribution, deterrence and reformation in terms not only of the Court but also of the values in which it takes place and in the balancing of these purposes of punishments, first one and then the other receives emphasis as the accompanying conditions change.”
The modern penological thinking favours rationalisation of punishment by taking into consideration the various approaches in their proper perspective and making use of them to suit the given situation and requirement of the offender in accordance with the principle of individualisation.