Treatment or Punishment for Youth Drug Use

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Since punishment is a response to crime that is much older than treatment, we begin by describing the concept of punishment. Punishment refers to imposing some unpleasant consequence for a person for a proven action that is decidedly unacceptable to others (Duff, 2001). Examples of punishment include incarceration, which is the response the United States has historically taken in response to the distribution and use of banned substances like heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. The justification for punishment is typically given as either retribution (i.e. taking something away from an offender in proportion to what the offender took from the victim), deterrence (i.e. using threat of punishment to dissuade others in society from committing a similar act), or incapacitation (i.e. to remove an individual from society in order to prevent him or her from committing more crimes). In the United States, the reasoning for a punishment is left to a criminal court’s discretion based on the impact and severity of the crime as well as other factors that might influence whether deterrence or incapacitation is necessary. Arguments in favor of punishment extol its benefits in being the simplest to administer and in sending the clearest message both to the offender and as a deterrent to potential offenders. In addition, favorable arguments point to the effect of punishment on restoring fairness within a community (Baumard, 2012). Serious objections to how fair society is will exist if society negates its objective to punish criminals for wrongdoing because, in a sense, victims are not recompensed for the wrong. Such a thought process behind punishment as retaliation dates back in human history to the way in which cooperation developed: that is, one cannot attack another without risk of being attacked themselves, and the alternative is either avoidance or cooperation. Of course, the limit imposed upon that thought is that retaliation and punishment must be proportionate to the crime committed, rather than causing an additional harm.