Cesare Beccaria: The Founder of Modern Penology

THE BEST OF: The following article, initially published on April 11,2010,  provides a brief historical context for the success of Hawaii’s highly praised HOPE Program.

If there is any certainty about our ideas for penal reforms, it is that they are mostly a reiteration of what has been said or written before. Mark Kleiman and Angekla Hawkins, the authors of the UCLA Publication on Hawaii’s “HOPE” Program, appropriately pay homage to the work of Cesare Beccaria, writing  “That swiftness and certainty outperform severity in the management of offending is a concept that dates back to Beccaria (1764)”. In an on line publication, Issues in Science and Technology, the authors note,”The idea that swiftness and certainty are more important determinants of deterrent effectiveness is at least as old as the founding document of criminology, Cesare Beccaria’s 18th-century On Crimes and Punishments.

Wikipedia describes Beccaria as the father of penology and his treatise, On Crimes and Punishments (1764) the founding work in penology. In it he proposes “a number of innovative and influential principles: punishment had a preventive (deterrent), not a retributive, function; punishment should be proportionate to the crime committed; the certainty of punishment, not its severity, would achieve the preventive effect; procedures of criminal convictions should be public; and finally, in order to be effective, punishment should be prompt.”

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