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On Crimes and Punishments

NCJ Number
C Beccaria
Date Published
105 pages
Translated from the sixth and final edition published in 1766, this book presents Beccaria's philosophy of official punishment for crimes in general and specific types of offenses.
Beccaria's summary statement on crimes and punishments is that 'In order that any punishment should not be an act of violence committed by one person or many against a private citizen, it is essential that it should be public, prompt, necessary, the minimum possible under the given circumstances, proportionate to the crimes, and established by law.' In Beccaria's view, the purpose of punishment is to deter the offender from committing the crime again and to discourage others from ever committing the crime. Punishment severity should be based primarily on the harm the offense has caused rather than the intent of the offender, and it should not be more severe than is required to achieve deterrence. Beccaria opposes capital punishment except under very restricted circumstances, and he argues that torture should never be used against an accused whose guilt has not been officially established. Other sanctions discussed are imprisonment and banishment. Particular types of offenses are considered in terms of their severity and punishment. Chapter notes.


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