This section is from the book "Principles Of Sociology With Educational Applications", by Frederick R. Clow. Also available from Amazon: Principles of sociology with educational applications.
When the government, through its inspectors, surveyors, or other officials, discovers wrongdoing, it must apply a corrective. The old idea regarded any violation of the regulations as an affront to the majesty of the government; the wrong can be righted only by some triumphant exhibition of power over the offending person. The emotion of anger or resentment is back of the idea, and accordingly the injured person is the most appropriate one to inflict the punishment; in primitive society he was expected to do it, thus leading to family feuds.
A higher conception was reached when punishment was designed to prevent the repetition of the offense. Out of this came the pillory, the public execution, and quartering the body and exposing the members in some public place. This legal conception has played a great part in the history of government, nor is it by any means obsolete now or likely to become so. This theory, like the preceding one, does not accord any rights to the criminal.
The sociological conception of punishment looks into the cause of the offense and seeks to remove it. The culprit is a member of society who is out of harmony with his environment; let him be given an experience which will, if possible, bring him into harmony and so restore him to good standing. In the study of the criminal class we found that the criminal is often only a person who was badly educated: let his punishment, then, be the completion, or supplementing, of his education. The hopeless offenders are to be segregated or got rid of with as little trouble as possible, though without cruelty.
And so punishment, necessarily coercive, no longer ostentatiously overrides the will of the culprit, but rather tries to enlist his will in new forms of activity which will be ultimately for his own benefit as well as wholesome socially. The prisoner, for example, is taught a trade; by good behavior he may secure privileges and shorten his term.
This new spirit in punishment is still another introduction to the next chapter; the theory of democracy is necessary to complete the theory of punishment. The next chapter, therefore, is in part a continuation of the one which is here concluded.