Sociology of Punishment

Foucault’s latest works concentrated on discipline and punishment as a way to instill social order in the society. In the field of sociology of punishment in the contemporary social settings, he focused on the problem of knowledge and power as the driving forces to crime. To combat these situations, he considered the use of punishment imposed on people as a good method to lay a systematic structure of regulations and power in societies. This approach however differs from other sociologist and criminologist like Durkeim and Marxist theories (Foucault, 2009 p. 514).

Foucault works are generally categorized as phenomenological as opposed to structural due to his emphasizes on the penal institutions as the main stream and structures to reform offenders in the society. He regards penal institutions as the best societal solutions that can be used to reform offenders through their organization and structural settings in order to impose and restore control. The offenders are considered as individuals when he considers society coherently capable of being studied and understood by structural methodologies (Foucault, 2009 p. 516).

The disappearance of prison as a form of punishment to violence motivated Foucault to devise ways and means of restoring order in the society. The argument that prisons were not only affecting offenders alone but also the larger society (relatives and family members) prompted him to recommend ways of punishing the soul of the offender. This according to him could deter a repeat of the same mistake from the concerned party. He further argued that prisons were only effective in transforming the body of the offender as opposed to the soul responsible for the crime. Therefore he believed in power to punish the soul of the offender which entails a rigorous rehabilitation process that will transform the psychological being of the offender. Further, his discussion emphasized the inner transformation of the offender to prevent a repeat of the crime rather than avenging the crime through body infliction of the offender with a high probability of a similar or worse repeat. His proposal to punish the soul of the offender referred to isolation of a criminal from the normal social settings and interaction with others, rehabilitated, resocialised and hopefully returned to the society after complete transformation (Foucault, 2009 p. 516).

The penal policy proposed by Foucault has mostly been used in European penal systems which has witnessed a drastic reduction in the number of prison population. American penal policy has also adopted the use of this rationality to restore social control. Australia is another country that has integrated this rationale to its penal policy practices. In line with this rationality, communicative power mechanisms are been emphasized, rather than physical. Logic is also highly emphasized to offender to speed up the achievement of penal policy objectives as well as reform offenders in a positive way. In his literature, Foucault referred to a model of a prison, school or a church as a Panopticon. However, the word was mostly associated with a prison model especially in many countries like Britain and France (Foucault, 2009 p. 517.

According to Foucault, he used it in his work to necessarily denote a mechanism used in the reformation process of offenders to achieve power and its constituents for institutions to be able to exercise maximum force. By so doing all the institutions and bodies involved in the reformation process adhere to set guides, rules and regulations to achieve the desired results. Mostly this type of power is highly advocated in libertarian socialism societies where there no coercion to perform certain societal requirements. The use of rehabilitation programs is an example of reforming offenders that employs penal policy and its rationale in exercise of power in the contemporary societies.

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