Restitution as Punishment

The traditional purposes of punishment in the criminal law in this country, I’m lead to understand, are common sense. Restraint, retribution, rehabilitation and deterrence. In recent years, however, the idea that punishment should also include some kind of restitution or recompense to the victim (or victim’s loved ones) has also been sounded prominently. This is strange distinction, I think.

It’s an academic point, and I won’t launch into a bloody essay on the subject, but I will name three reasons why I think it’s strange. First, enforcing compensation for damages by one individual to another (or to a group), is generally the task of tort and civil law. Civil lawsuits can occur simultaneously with criminal lawsuits, but to mingle the two seems potentially messy. Second, doing good deeds for those you’ve injured doesn’t really strike me as a punishment, per se. Perhaps it will be unpleasant for the criminals made to do it, but I can’t help feeling (perhaps idealistically) that doing good to others is actually a positive benefit for the doer (in addition to the receiver), and that this kind of thing can’t really be said to be punishment. Third, inasmuch as doing good to those you’ve injured makes you a better person, it seems to fall under the category of rehabilitation, so why call it by another name?

Boarder