Deterrence vs Retribution: Difference and Comparison

Deterrence and Retribution are two terms that are related to law. Both terms are closely attached to the grounds of punishment and have great significance.

Even though Deterrence and Retribution are related but they carry their different significances and importance from each other.

Key Takeaways

  1. Deterrence aims to prevent future criminal behavior by imposing penalties, while retribution seeks to punish offenders for their past actions.
  2. Deterrence focuses on the potential consequences for the criminal and society, whereas retribution emphasizes the moral balance between crime and punishment.
  3. Utilitarian principles support deterrence, while retribution is grounded in deontological theories of justice.

Deterrence vs Retribution

Deterrence is the idea that punishing an individual will deter people from committing similar crimes. Retribution is the idea that punishment is necessary as a moral response to wrongdoing. Deterrence seeks to stop future crimes, while retribution aims to provide a sense of moral satisfaction.

Deterrence vs Retribution

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Deterrence is a kind of law wherein the accuser is punished so that he can not repeat the mistake.

Such punishment is practised to set an example in society that in the future, no one will repeat the same mistake.

On the other hand, Retribution refers to the punishment where the main aim is to take revenge on the accuser.

The same unpleasant act is repeated with the accuser by the victim to make him realize his mistake.

In short, the punishment has to be proportionate.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonDeterrenceRetribution
Introduction Year The term Deterrence has introduced back in the year 1764.Both major as well as minor cases use the theory of Retribution.
FatherThe Father or the Creator of Deterrence theory is Cesare Beccaria. Devis is the person who introduced the theory of Retribution.
Case TypeDeterrence theory is used in more severe acts. Deterrence has been taken from the Latin term ‘deterrent’ meaning ‘to fight from’.
Motive The main motive of Deterrence theory is used to set an impact on society. Deterrence has been taken from the Latin term ‘deterrentem’ meaning ‘to fight from’.
The etymology of the termThe Latin term ‘retribution’ is the main term from which retribution has originated which means ‘back what’s due’.The Latin term ‘retribution’ is the primary term from which retribution has originated, which means ‘back what’s due’.

What is Deterrence?

There are different sets of punishments in the law, therefore, Deterrence is one of the punishments.

In Deterrence, the accessor is punished brutally for their mistake, and the punishment is so severe that the accusor can not even protest against it.

Therefore, the accusor never gets the chance to give justification.

Such punishment is given to set an example and fear in the minds of the people of the society so that they will not repeat the mistake as well.

Generally, such punishments are more applicable to brutal acts.

The Deterrence law came into force in 1764 and was introduced by Cesare Beccaria, known to be the Father of Deterrence.

Cesare Beccaria introduced this law to set an example in society so people live within their limits.

But, later, it even leads to many other negative consequences.

Deterrence is a Latin term from ‘deterrent’, and its etymological meaning is ‘to fight from’.

Some benefits that came along with Deterrence theory are that it helps maintain security, to some extent, it avoids illegal work from society, etc.

While the disadvantages later led by this theory are sometimes it became difficult to punish the accuser for severe crimes, the accessor never got the chance to justify or apologize for their mistakes, etc.


What is Retribution?

The act where the accusor is punished in the same way as the victim is known to be Retribution theory. It is one of the punishment theories introduced by its creator Devis.

Davis, for the first time, introduced the theory in the year around the 1980s. It was considered one of the most significant punishments, but later it was also criticised.

Retribution originated from the Latin term ‘retribution’, and its meaning is ‘back what’s due.

Retribution theory was used in both minor as well as for significant cases. In this theory, the accessor was bound to suffer the same as the victim if found guilty.

For example- If a person murder’s someone, and hence if the accessor is found guilty, the accusor is sentenced to death.

But later, this theory was criticized because even if the accusor is punished, the victim will not do anything again.

Like in the example, the victim is already dead; even if the accuser is punished, the victim won’t be alive again.

This theory benefits society by ensuring the accusor will be 100% punished, maintains balance, etc.

And the disadvantage is like the accusor will never get the chance to improve themselves.

Main Differences Between Deterrence and Retribution

  1. In 1764, the law of Deterrence was first introduced; on the other hand, during the 1980s, the theory of Retribution was established.
  2. Cesare Beccaria was the person who introduced the Deterrence theory. On the other hand, the Retribution theory was put forward by Devis.
  3. In severe crimes, the Deterrence theory is applied, while on the other hand, the retribution theory is used in cases of both major and minor.
  4. Setting an example in people’s minds is the Deterrence theory’s major motive. On the other hand, the Retribution theory works based on the motive of taking revenge.
  5. Deterrence is a term that originated from the Latin term ‘deterrent’, meaning ‘to fight from’. On the other hand, ‘retribution’ is a Latin term known to be the original term for Retribution which means ‘back what’s due’.

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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