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see capital punishmentcapital punishment,
imposition of a penalty of death by the state. History

Capital punishment was widely applied in ancient times; it can be found (c.1750 B.C.) in the Code of Hammurabi.
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; corporal punishmentcorporal punishment,
physical chastisement of an offender. At one extreme it includes the death penalty (see capital punishment), but the term usually refers to punishments like flogging, caning, mutilation, and branding. Until c.
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; criminal lawcriminal law,
the branch of law that defines crimes, treats of their nature, and provides for their punishment. A tort is a civil wrong committed against an individual; a crime, on the other hand, is regarded as an offense committed against the public, even though only one
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; prisonprison,
place of confinement for the punishment and rehabilitation of criminals. By the end of the 18th cent. imprisonment was the chief mode of punishment for all but capital crimes.
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a measure of coercion applied by a court in the name of the state as a penalty for commission of a crime.

The idea of punishment arose in ancient times. It did not exist in preclass society as a means of state coercion but operated instead on the principle of the blood feud, that is, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Forced labor, one of the earliest types of punishment, appeared in slaveholding society. With the spread of Christianity came the idea that punishment led to atonement for sins, a concept that took its first legal form in canon law. In the 18th century this idea became fixed in criminal laws and codes. The primary purpose of punishment was considered to be deterrence. Measures of punishment were accordingly extremely cruel and included the death penalty, mutilation, and corporal punishment.

After the bourgeois revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, bourgeois ideologists advanced the proposition that the purpose of punishment was the safety of society. Yet punishment in bourgeois criminal law continued above all to be a means of vengeance. This was shown in the establishment of various prison systems that were intended to violate the human dignity of those confined and cause them moral and physical suffering. The repressive nature of punishment under bourgeois criminal law was revealed in its harshest form during the period of fascism in Germany and Italy, where punishment operated as a device of terror.

In the capitalist states during the 19th and 20th centuries, the nature of punishment has changed somewhat. The corrective function of punishment has been proposed in abstract form and some liberalization of prison conditions has taken place. Types of confinement in which punishment is combined with education, with study of the personality of the prisoner, and with psychotherapy have been introduced, particularly for juvenile offenders. Systems of “noninstitutional” custody, which do not include imprisonment, have been implemented. All these innovations are linked to the search for ways to combat the steady growth of crime in capitalist society, and are a result of the struggle of the working people in the capitalist countries for democratization of the criminal justice system. In principle, however, such measures cannot change the role and significance of punishment as a means of vengeance and suppression of the personality.

In the USSR, the content and purposes of punishment are set down in Article 20 of the Basic Principles of Criminal Legislation of the USSR and the Union Republics and in Articles One and Two of the Basic Principles of Corrective Labor Legislation of the USSR and the Union Republics. Among the purposes of punishment are correction and reeducation of convicted offenders, prevention of further crimes they might commit (specific or special prevention), and prevention of crimes by other persons (general prevention). The principal means of correction and reeducation include the conditions under which the punishment is served, participation by convicted offenders in socially useful labor, political education, and general educational and vocational-technical training. The social significance of punishment lies in its function within the complex set of social measures designed to prevent crime.

The punishment provided by law for a given crime can be imposed on guilty persons only on the sentence of a court. The Basic Principles of Criminal Legislation establishes certain rules for the imposition of punishment, which are primarily intended to affirm general principles for selecting punishment. From among the sanctions available under the law, the court selects the type and amount of punishment that match the crime committed. Here the court considers the nature and degree of social danger inherent in the crime committed, the character of the offender, and any circumstances of the case that mitigate or aggravate criminal accountability. Soviet criminal law ensures individualization of punishment, that is, selection of precisely that measure of punishment that is sufficient to ensure that the goals of punishment are achieved, particularly the correction and reeducation of the criminal. The availability of a variety of punishments is an essential condition for individualizing punishment.

The Basic Principles of Criminal Legislation contain a definitive list of available measures of punishment. These include deprivation of freedom (confinement), exile (to a certain place), banishment (from a certain place), corrective labor without deprivation of freedom, loss of the right to occupy certain positions or to engage in certain activities, fines, public reprimand, confiscation of property, and loss of military or other special rank. Active-duty servicemen may also be assigned to a disciplinary battalion to serve their punishment. The criminal codes of the Union republics also provide such punishments as dismissal from a position held, imposition of an obligation to compensate for damages criminally caused, and loss of parental rights.

All measures of punishment are divided into primary and supplementary, with the latter used to amplify the former. Deprivation of freedom, corrective labor without deprivation of freedom, public reprimand, and assignment to a disciplinary battalion are considered primary punishments. Exile, banishment, loss of the right to occupy certain positions or engage in certain activities, fines, dismissal from a position, and imposition of the obligation to compensate damages may be imposed as either primary or supplementary punishments. Confiscation of property, loss of military or special rank, and (in the criminal codes of most of the Union republics) loss of parental rights can only be supplementary punishments. A court that imposes a supplementary punishment in addition to a primary one does so in order to increase the punishment.

The supreme form of punishment, namely, the death penalty, is not part of the general system of punishment. The law considers the death penalty to be an extraordinary measure—pending its complete abolition in the future, it is to be used on a temporary basis, and only in cases specially provided by law.

Soviet law proceeds from the presumption that punishment is employed only for actual crimes and only in those cases where other measures of influence on violators of the law have been inadequate.


Kurs sovetskogo ugolovnogo prava, vol. 3. Moscow, 1970.
Karpets, I. I. Nakazanie: Sotsial’nye, pravovye i kriminologicheskie problemy. Moscow, 1973.
Noi, I. S. Sushchnost’ i funktsii ugolovnogo nakazaniia v Sovetskom gosudarstve. Saratov, 1973.


What does it mean when you dream about punishment?

Punishment in a dream reflects guilt or shame about some actions committed by the dreamer. Even if the punishment is being inflicted upon someone else, the dreamer is most probably “feeling” the punishment as well.


Abijah Jeroboam’s
child; taken by God for father’s wickedness. [O.T.: I Kings 14:12]
condemned to survive by sweat of brow. [O.T.: Genesis 3:19]
sinful life led to perpetual suffering. [Arth. Legend: Walsh Classical, 20; Ger. Opera: Parsifal]
half-hippopotamus, half-lion monster of underworld; ate the sinful. [Egyptian Myth.: Leach, 50]
land of punishment for those who die angry. [Jap. Myth.: Jobes, 140]
Atlas Titan
condemned to bear world on shoulders. [Gk. Myth.: Walsh Classical, 38]
Battus Arcadian
shepherd who revealed Mercury’s theft of sheep; he was punished by being turned to stone. [Gk. and Rom. Myth.: Walsh Classical, 71]
Born, Bertrand
de Dante has him carry his head as lantern. [Ital. Lit.: Inferno; Walsh Classical, 55]
had a venal judge put to death and the body skinned as covering for his judgment seat. [Gk. Hist.: Herodotus in Magill III, 479]
the Furies; punished crimes and avenged wrongs. [Gk. Myth.: Kravitz, 82, 91–92]
Don Juan
for murder, devoured by fire. [Span. Lit.: Benét, 279; Ger. Opera: Mozart, Don Giovanni, Westerman, 95]
Erinyes (Furies)
three sisters who pursue those guilty of blood crimes and drive them mad. [Gk. Myth.: Benét, 320]
for disobeying God, would suffer in childbirth. [O.T.: Genesis 3:16]
for his evilness, man perishes by inundation. [O.T.: Genesis 6: 5–8; 7:4]
Herod Agrippa I
was eaten by worms for playing god. [N.T.: Acts 12:23]
lived for nineteen centuries as punishment for her crime against John the Baptist. [Fr. Lit.: Eugène Sue The Wandering Jew]
iron maiden
hollow iron figure in the shape of a woman, lined with spikes that impaled the enclosed victim. [Ger. Hist.: Brewer Dictionary, 491]
Ixion Thessalian
king bound to fiery wheel by Zeus. [Gk. and Rom. Myth.: Zimmerman, 142; Rom. Lit.: Metamorphoses]
Laocoön Trojan
priest offends Athena, is strangled to death by two sea serpents. [Gk. Myth.: Benét, 565]
Nadab and Abihu
destroyed by God for offering Him “alien fire.” [O.T.: Leviticus 10:1–3]
for lying, has mouth padlocked. [Ger. Opera: Mozart, The Magic Flute, Westerman, 102–104]
Peeping Tom
struck blind for peeping at Lady Godiva. [Br. Legend: Brewer Dictionary, 403]
plagues on Egypt
God visits Egypt with plagues and epidemics to show his power. [O.T.: Exodus 8, 12]
for rebelliousness, chained to rock; vulture fed on his liver which grew back daily. [Rom. Myth.: Zimmerman, 221–222]
Prynne, Hester
pilloried and sentenced to wear a scarlet “A” for her sin of adultery. [Am. Lit.: The Scarlet Letter]
condemned in Hades to roll boulder uphill which would immediately roll down again. [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 244; Gk. Lit.: Odyssey; Rom. Lit.: Aeneid]
for his crimes, sentenced to Hades to be within reach of water he cannot drink. [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 253; Gk. Lit.: Odyssey]
Tell, William
ordered to shoot apple placed on son’s head for refusing to salute governor’s hat. [Ger. Lit.: William Tell; Ital. Opera: Rossini, William Tell; Westerman, 121–122]
unknowingly eats sons served by vengeful brother. [Rom. Lit.: Thyestes]
tree site of the London gibbet. [Br. Hist.: Espy, 169]
Vale of Achor
site of lapidation of Achan, Israelite troublemaker. [O.T.: Joshua 7:24–26]
condemned to eternal flames for seeking forbidden knowledge. [Br. Lit.: Beckford Vathek]


1. a penalty or sanction given for any crime or offence
2. the act of punishing or state of being punished
3. Psychol any aversive stimulus administered to an organism as part of training
References in classic literature ?
I am here because I carried the joke too far with a couple of cousins of mine, and with a couple of other cousins who were none of mine; in short, I carried the joke so far with them all that it ended in such a complicated increase of kindred that no accountant could make it clear: it was all proved against me, I got no favour, I had no money, I was near having my neck stretched, they sentenced me to the galleys for six years, I accepted my fate, it is the punishment of my fault; I am a young man; let life only last, and with that all will come right.
It was, that another partook of his punishment -- that another partook of his anguish -- that another was to die before him.
Without making the least objection to the punishment, the Leather-Stocking quietly seated himself on the ground, and suffered his limbs to be laid in the openings, without even a murmur; though he cast one glance about him, in quest of that sympathy that human nature always seems to require under suffering “ but he met no direct manifestations of pity, neither did he see any unfeeling exultation, or hear a single reproachful epithet.
But when he is detected in any unseemly act now, it is my stern practice to cane my writing table in his presence, and even this punishment is almost more than he can bear.
In MY childhood I could not imagine a more afflictive punishment than for my mother to refuse to kiss me at night: the very idea was terrible.
He had had some experience of white men in the past and knew that dire were the punishments meted to those who wronged the white man's women.
And Mauki walked small, accepted his punishments, and waited.
In the past White Fang had experienced delayed punishments, and he apprehended that such a one was about to befall him.
Promises and agreements were broken, and most drastic punishments visited upon even petty offenders.
The doctrine of the immortality of the soul is also carried further, being made the foundation not only of a theory of knowledge, but of a doctrine of rewards and punishments.
And when the constitution of the State is completed, the conception of justice is not dismissed, but reappears under the same or different names throughout the work, both as the inner law of the individual soul, and finally as the principle of rewards and punishments in another life.
You know I'm saving up all your punishments for Wednesday week--Suppose they had saved up all MY punishments