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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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


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]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


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
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Sometimes corporal punishment results in serious and permanent damage to children, causing even physical or cerebral paralysis.
She said that it was actually her research thesis on corporal punishment to children and its consequences which she decided to bring out in book form given importance and sensitivity of the issue so as to sensitise common people to the harmful practice which damaged children's personality beyond repair.
The bill prohibits the infliction of all forms of humiliating or degrading punishment, including non-physical forms of violence such as intimidation, cursing, and ridiculing a child in public.
'So far, there is no decision by the government to abolish whipping as this punishment has been around in our country for so long, though I admit there is a deterrent effect.
Sege, M.D., Ph.D., from Tufts Medical Center in Boston, and colleagues address the use of punishment for disciplining children, including corporal punishment and verbal punishment such as shaming or humiliation.
In this case, however, the researchers caution that they see an association rather than a causal relationship between legal bans on corporal punishment and violence in youth.
Talking to private news channel , a child developmental psychiatrist, Dr Amna Tariq said, physical punishment is a serious public health problem throughout the world including Pakistan, and it profoundly affects the mental health of children and the societies in which we live.
The mother of one of the victims, who had given Gunckel permission to spank her son as a form of corporal punishment, told Pittsburg County Sheriff's Deputy Cody Vaughn that she discovered bruises on the student's buttocks, which had resulted from excessive paddling.
New Delhi [India], Jul 31 ( ANI ): The Delhi High Court on Tuesday constituted a five-member committee to examine the punishment and death sentencing awarded in the sexual harassment cases.
The notice was intended to clarify any doubt about the nature of punishment to be meted out on students.
The number of days added as a punishment has nearly doubled since 2011, when it stood at 8,690 days.
Prisoners had their earnings stopped as a punishment nearly 50,000 times