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Beccaria – “On Crimes And Punishments”

November 4, 2018 By Margit

Cesare Beccaria is seen by many people as the “father of criminology.” Here is a brief summary of his ideas and famous essay “On Crimes and Punishments,” both in video and text format.

Table of Contents

Discussions about Crime and Punishment

Cesare Beccaria is seen by many people as the “father of criminology” for his ideas about crime, punishment, and criminal justice procedures. He was an Italian born as an aristocrat in the year 1738 in Milan. At that time European thought about crime and punishment was still very much dominated by the old idea that crime was sin and that it was caused by the devil and by demons. And in part to punish the devil and the demons that were causing crime, very harsh punishments were used. At the time when Beccaria came along, the era of Enlightenment was in full swing, and scientists were starting to challenge the old views, but the people who had political power were not ready to leave those old ideas behind yet.

Beccaria didn’t start out as an intellectual. In fact, he wasn’t considered to be above average or interested really when it came to science or philosophy. But after he completed his law studies at the University of Pavia, he started to surround himself with a group of young men who were interested in all kinds of philosophical issues and social problems. And the intellectual discussions that Beccaria was able to have with these people led him to question many of the practices that were common in his time, including the way in which offenders were being punished for their crimes.

Publication of Beccaria’s “On Crimes and Punishments”

Beccaria’s famous work, “On Crimes and Punishments,” was published in 1764, when he was 26 years old. His essay called out the barbaric and arbitrary ways in which the criminal justice system operated. Sentences were very harsh, torture was common, there was a lot of corruption, there were secret accusations and secret trials, and there was a lot of arbitrariness in the way in which sentences were imposed. There was no such thing as equality before the law. And powerful people of high status were treated very differently from people who were poor and who did not have a lot of status.

Beccaria’s ideas clashed dramatically with these practices. And I’ll go through some of the central principles that his work is based on.

Only the Law Can Prescribe Punishment

According to Beccaria, only the law can prescribe punishment. It is up to the legislator to define crime and to prescribe which punishment should be imposed. It is not up to a magistrate or a judge to impose a penalty if the legislator has not prescribed it. And neither is it up to a judge to change what the law says about how a crime should be punished. The judge should do exactly what the law says.

The Law Applies Equally to All People

In addition, Beccaria said that the law applies equally to all people. And so punishment should be the same for all people, regardless of their power and status.

Making the Law and Law Enforcement Public

Beccaria also believed in the power of making the law and law enforcement public. More specifically, laws should be published so that people actually know about them, and trials should be public, too. Only then can onlookers judge if the trial is fair.

According to Beccaria, the Law and Law Enforcement Should be Public

Beccaria: Punishments Should be Proportional, Certain, and Swift

Regarding severe punishment, Beccaria said that if severe punishments do not prevent crime, they should not be used. Instead, punishments should be proportional to the harm that the crime has caused. According to Beccaria, the aim of punishment is not to cause pain to the offender, but to prevent them from doing it again and to prevent other people from committing crime. In order to be able to do that, Beccaria believed that punishment should be certain and swift. He believed that if offenders were sure that they would be punished and if punishment would come as quickly as possible after the offense, that this would have the largest chance of preventing crime.

Beccaria Argued Against the Death Penalty

As another controversial issue, Beccaria argued against the death penalty. In his view, the state does not have the right to repay violence with more violence. And in addition to that, Beccaria believed that the death penalty was useless. The death penalty is momentary, it is not lasting and therefore the death penalty cannot be very successful in preventing crimes. Instead, lasting punishments, such as life imprisonment, would be more successful in preventing crimes, because potential offenders will find this a much more miserable condition than the death penalty.

Cesare Beccaria had radical ideas about crime and punishment for his time

No Right To Torture

Similarly, according to Cesare Beccaria, the state does not have the right to torture. Because no one is guilty until he or she is found guilty, no one has the right to punish a person by torturing him or her. Plus, people who are under torture will want the torture to stop and might therefore make false claims, including that they committed a crime they did not commit. So torture is also ineffective.

The Power of Education

Instead of torture and severe penalties, Beccaria believed that education is the most certain method of preventing crime.

Beccaria: Controversy and Success

Beccaria’s ideas are hardly controversial today, but they caused a lot of controversy at the time, because they were an attack on the entire criminal justice system. Beccaria initially published his essay anonymously, because he didn’t necessarily consider it to be a great idea to publish such radical ideas. And this idea was partly confirmed when the book was put on the black list of the Catholic Church for a full 200 years.

But even though his ideas were controversial back then, his essay became an immediate success. In fact, Cesare Beccaria’s ideas became the basis for all modern criminal justice systems and there is some evidence that his essay influenced the American and French revolutions which happened not long after the publication of the essay. His ideas were not original, because others had also proposed them, but Beccaria was the first one to present them in a consistent way. Many people were ready for the changes that he proposed, which is why his essay was such a success.

Beccaria ends his essay with what can be seen as a kind of summary of his view:

“So that any punishment be not an act of violence of one or of many against another, it is essential that it be public, prompt, necessary, minimal in severity as possible under given circumstances, proportional to the crime, and prescribed by the laws.”

You can find Cesare Beccaria’s full essay “On Crimes and Punishments” here .

Cesare Beccaria, father of criminology and classical criminology


Essay on Crime And Punishment

Students are often asked to write an essay on Crime And Punishment in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on Crime And Punishment

Understanding crime.

Crime is an act that breaks the law. It can be small, like stealing candy, or big, like robbing a bank. Some people commit crimes because they are poor, others because they want power or excitement. No matter the reason, crime harms others and disrupts peace in society.

Purpose of Punishment

Punishment is given to people who commit crimes. It serves two main purposes. First, it discourages the person from committing the crime again. Second, it warns others that crime leads to unpleasant consequences.

Types of Punishment

Punishments can be different based on the crime. For small crimes, punishments can be fines or community service. For serious crimes, punishments can be jail time or even the death penalty in some places.

Effectiveness of Punishment

Punishment can stop people from committing crimes, but it’s not always effective. Sometimes, people commit crimes again after being punished. This shows that we need to find better ways to prevent crime, like education and providing opportunities.

Crime and punishment are important topics in our society. While punishment can deter crime, it’s not a perfect solution. We need to work on other ways to prevent crime, ensuring a peaceful and safe society for all.

250 Words Essay on Crime And Punishment

Understanding crime and punishment.

Crime refers to acts that break the law. These are actions that society and law consider wrong. For example, stealing or hurting someone physically. Punishment, on the other hand, is what happens when someone commits a crime. It could be a fine, jail time, or community service.

Why Crimes Happen

People commit crimes for many reasons. Some do it out of need, like stealing food to eat. Others might do it because they think it’s fun or exciting. Sometimes, people commit crimes because they are angry or upset. Understanding these reasons can help us stop crimes before they happen.

Punishments are given based on the crime. Small crimes, like stealing a candy bar, might result in a small fine. Bigger crimes, like hurting someone, could lead to jail time. Some punishments aim to help the person learn from their mistakes, like community service.

Effect of Punishment

The goal of punishment is to stop people from committing crimes. It makes people think twice before doing something wrong. Yet, sometimes, punishment doesn’t work. Some people continue to commit crimes even after being punished. This shows that we need to find better ways to stop crime.

In conclusion, crime and punishment are important aspects of our society. They help keep order and ensure safety. By understanding the reasons behind crime and the effects of punishment, we can work towards a safer and more peaceful society.

500 Words Essay on Crime And Punishment

Crime is an act that goes against the laws set by society. It’s like breaking the rules that everyone has agreed to follow. These rules, or laws, are made to keep peace and order. When someone breaks them, it disrupts this peace and order. Crimes can be different in nature, like stealing, hurting someone, or telling lies about someone else.

What is Punishment?

Punishment is what happens when someone is found guilty of a crime. It’s a way for society to show that breaking the law is not okay. Punishments can also be different based on the crime. For example, if someone steals, they might have to give back what they stole and spend some time in jail. If someone hurts another person, they might have to go to jail for a long time.

The Purpose of Punishment

Punishment serves several important roles. First, it helps to teach the person who committed the crime that what they did was wrong. This is called deterrence. The idea is that if the punishment is tough, people will think twice before committing a crime.

Second, punishment also protects society. When a person who has committed a crime is in jail, they can’t commit more crimes. This is called protection.

Finally, punishment can also help the person who committed the crime to become a better person. This is called rehabilitation. The idea is to help them understand why what they did was wrong and how they can avoid doing it in the future.

The Balance Between Crime and Punishment

It’s important to make sure the punishment fits the crime. This means that the punishment should be just right – not too harsh, not too light. If the punishment is too harsh, it’s not fair to the person who committed the crime. If it’s too light, it might not stop them or others from committing more crimes.

Finding the right balance can be hard. That’s why we have judges and courts. They look at all the details of the crime and the person who committed it. Then they decide what the right punishment should be.

Final Thoughts

Crime and punishment are important parts of our society. They help keep order and teach people the difference between right and wrong. It’s a complex system, but it’s necessary to ensure that we can all live in peace and safety. It’s also a system that is always changing and evolving, as we learn more about what works best to deter crime and rehabilitate those who have committed crimes.

Remember, the goal is not just to punish, but also to prevent future crimes and help those who have committed crimes to become better people. This way, we can all live in a safer and more peaceful society.

That’s it! I hope the essay helped you.

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Crime and punishment IELTS model essay with vocabulary

Our band nine sample essays give you the opportunity to learn from successful essays that show off the best structure, vocabulary and grammar. This IELTS essay on crime and punishment explores the advantages and disadvantages of harsh punishment for criminals.

band Nine Sample Essay

In some countries, crimes are punished harshly. what are some advantages and disadvantages of this approach.

Several nations have opted to implement a system of strict penalties, such as long jail sentences and execution, for crimes. In this essay, I will explore the advantage that this is a good deterrent with the disadvantage that this harms rehabilitation .

Punitive measures can help deter future crime. If people can see that crimes will be punished harshly, they are far less likely to want to commit a crime . Because people consider risk versus reward before acting, making crime as risky as possible by increasing punishment can stop criminals. Conversely, when countries have light punishments for crimes like shoplifting , people in those countries might feel like it is worth the risk to do these crimes.

However, these strong punishments also increase recidivism by failing to rehabilitate people. One of the main purposes of sending people to prison is to prevent them from committing crimes when they leave; however, making prisons and other punishments too strict works against this purpose. When criminals have a heavily punitive experience, they lose self-confidence and become distrustful of authority , meaning they are more likely to be involved in crime when they leave prison. Alternatively, if prisoners have access to training and support, such as drug rehabilitation programs and anger management classes, they are far more likely to rejoin society in a productive way. 

In conclusion, the correct punishment for crimes is a complex issue. On the one hand, strong measures deter crime; on the other hand, the same measures make it more likely for prisoners to reoffend .

crime and punishment vocabulary

Although crime and punishment is a common topic in the IELTS exam, there, thankfully, is not too much vocabulary you need to know for it. Let’s take a look at some of the high level vocabulary in this answer to kick start your learning.

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write an essay on crime and punishment

The Classic Journal

A journal of undergraduate writing and research, from wip at uga, an analysis of crime and punishment.

by Paris Whitney

write an essay on crime and punishment

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky is a novel that has been deemed controversial, yet notable over the course of centuries. This novel was influenced by the time period and setting of 19 th century St. Petersburg, Russia. Society was transitioning from medieval traditions to Westernization, which had a large impact on civilians, specifically those in poverty. Dostoevsky writes this novel centered around a poor man whose poverty drives him to test an ideology that results in his own detriment. Although this is important, the plot is only part of what makes this novel significant. What continues to make this novel memorable centuries after it was written is how Dostoevsky uses the concept of time to progress the plot and establish information, how his use of symbolism contributes to the message and meaning of the story and its characters, and how his writing has unintentionally embraced and related to different philosophies.

symbolism, nature, time, philosophy, existentialism, ego transcendence

Fyodor Dostoevsky is perhaps the most controversial author of the nineteenth century. His best-known work is Crime and Punishment , a novel that explores the psychological depths of man. At the center is Raskolnikov, a character who inflicts and experiences a great deal of suffering, all because he perceives himself to be superior to the average man.

Crime and Punishment takes place in St. Petersburg, Russia. The time is 1860, Alexander II holds reign, and consequently political skepticism is abundant. In addition to skepticism, the country’s economic state has disproportionate effects on its citizens, as the increasing wealth gap parallels the increase of turmoil in the streets. The novel follows Rodion Raskolnikov, a man of lower class whose poverty leads him to forming an idea and testing its validity. This theory is that certain men are exempt from laws created by society, as their actions against these laws are done for the greater good. In order to test this theory, Raskolnikov forms a plan to murder Alyona Ivanovna, an old pawnbroker whom he has had many exchanges with. After killing Ivanovna, he ends up killing her sister Lizaveta as well, when her appearance at Ivanovna’s apartment startles his original plan. In a frenzy, he leaves their bodies at the crime scene, and on his way out his mental state begins to spiral leading the readers to follow his psychological decline. 

Around the world, philologists and psychologists alike have studied Crime and Punishment to understand what makes this work essential to literature. Through studies of symbolism, philosophy, and psychology, it is recognized how Dostoevsky uses the concept of time to develop the story, how he uses symbolism to reflect underlying emotions and intentions of characters, and how different ideologies may be related to the meaning behind Crime and Punishment. These components used together showcase how Dostoevsky’s work remains notable for centuries.  

Crime and Punishment is a novel symbolic of the drawbacks that society can have on individuals, specifically those who are at a disadvantage as a result of their class or mental state. When Dostoevsky penned this novel, the time was 1866. 19 th century Russia was a transition period from medieval traditions to Westernization. During this transition, many people struggled to accommodate to the changing times. There was unrest in the streets, conflict amongst the classes, economic upheaval, and a lack of concern for those suffering by the government. Those who were of higher class were better able to navigate this complex transition, while those in poverty lacked the materials necessary to accommodate to the coming changes. Previously Westernized countries exhibited unrest fromtheir populations while progressing in societal advancement. There was concern about this potentially translating into Russia’s development. Russia was not exempt from these issues, and Dostoevsky was no help in assuring that peace would be maintained. Dostoevsky’s work concerned people in power when he indirectly made an association between violence and societal progression, and how this may prompt the masses to revolt against their government. Localized current events, such as a rise in domestic violence and murder, also influenced this novel. Due to these real-life events that inspired Dostoevsky’s work, it can be said that Crime and Punishment is an accurate representation of its time period [ 1 ] .

Not only was time period an influence on his work, but Dostoevsky would manipulate the concept of time itself to convey the meaning behind his stories. In Crime and Punishment , Dostoevsky writes Raskolnikov as a character continuously in a fever of thoughts. His mind is constantly running rampant, unrelenting even in slumber. Before significant events Raskolnikov would either flashback or dream of memories foreshadowing future moments. An example of this is before committing to murder Alyona Ivanovna, his subconscious takes him and the reader back to a moment where he and his father witnessed the cruel killing of a mule at the hands of a crowd for being too weak to pull a wagon . From a third person perspective, young Raskolnikov’s reaction to this moment is described hither, “But by now the poor boy is beside himself. With a shout he plunges through the crowd into the sorrel, embraces her dead, bloodstained muzzle, and he kisses her, kisses her on the eyes, on the mouth…” (Dostoevsky, 1866, pg. 57). By preceding Raskolnikov’s murderous intentions with his younger self’s mournful reaction to the mule’s death shows the audience how Raskolnikov has developed over time, and the degeneration resulting from his experiences in life.Time also seems to slow down when Raskolnikov is in moments of heightened emotion , because as he loses the ability to conceptualize, the more feverish his mind becomes. Towards the end of the novel, Raskolnikov reflects on the events that have occurred, saying “after a long time had passed, he thought his consciousness must have kept flashing on and off, with several dim, dark intervals, right up to the final catastrophe. He was absolutely convinced he had been mistaken about many things at the time; the duration of time of certain events, for example.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, pg. 417). This feverish mindset also manifests into physiological symptoms, giving Raskolnikov the appearance of being sick. “He was not completely unconscious all the time he was sick, but rather delirious, in a feverish state of half consciousness. He could recall a good deal later. Once in his room seemed full of people… They had all gone out. They were afraid of him.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, pg. 112). Dostoevsky uses syntax and diction to write these occurrences in a way that mimics Raskolnikov’s thinking. The transitions between events are frenetic, reflecting the tumultuous thoughts that plague Raskolnikov as a result of his actions. Choosing to modify the chronology of the novel in this way, he emphasizes the severity of situations by making the readers feel like they are experiencing the event as well.

In addition to this, Crime and Punishment contains levels of symbolism to enhance the mental conditions of characters . George Gibian explored traditionalsymbolism [2] within Crime and Punishment , and came to find that many motifshave religious roots. Ranging from Christianity to Paganism to Russian Orthodoxy, Dostoevsky’s implementation of images such as water, vegetation, air, and earth come together to express the mental state of the characters immersed in a particular setting. For example, Gibian described how water is used as a symbol of rebirth or regeneration. In Crime and Punishment , Raskolnikov would aimlessly walk about the setting in moments where his mind and thoughts were chaotic. He would end up in symbolically important nature scenes, for instance beside a river that ran through his town, or on the ground surrounded by bushes and trees. When near the water, he would feel the weight of guilt coming from the crimes he has committed. “He stared at the darkening water of the canal. He seemed to be scrutinizing this water. At last red circles danced before his eyes, the buildings swayed, the passersby, the embankments, the carriages- everything around him began to swirl and dance. All of a sudden he shuddered. A wild and grotesque scene saved him, perhaps, from another fainting spell.” (Dostoevsky, 1866, pg. 163). In this scene, Raskolnikov’s physiological symptoms begin to arise as his consciousness fights for contrition. This is important because Raskolnikov’s proximity to water when these feelings arise is representative of the good side of his conscience, trying to push him in the direction of what is right.

While water and vegetation are symbols that typically have a positive connotation, their presence can be used to emphasize the degeneration of one’s mental state . An example would be Svidrigailov, a character whose presence is nothing short of problematic. He strives to satisfy his erotic desires regardless of who may be harmed in the process, solidifying his position as one of the antagonists in Crime and Punishment . Svidrigailov also possesses a dislike for nature. This is shown when he visits St. Petersburg, and in his final night of life he ends up spiraling in his hotel room. During this downward spiral, he hears the sound of trees rustling outside of his window combined with rain. Instead of comforting him, they drive him further towards insanity. “‘The trees are sighing. I must admit I don’t care for the sighing of trees on a dark, stormy night- it gives me the creeps!’” He takes time to contemplate his life, saying, “ ‘I never in my life liked water… You’d think now, of all times, I’d be indifferent to these fine points of esthetics and comfort, whereas actually I’m fussier,’” (Dostoevsky, 1866, pg. 480). He resents the sound of vegetation when having a mental breakdown, and he ends up committing suicide in the midst of a fog that has emerged after a thunderstorm- showing his opposition to growing as a person. The use of nature as a way to reflect internal torments and emotions of different characters shows Dostoevsky’s proficiency in storytelling. Having the character’s surroundings speak the unspoken about what they may be feeling adds a level of meaning to the novel. This implementation of pathetic fallacy strengthens the story while aiding the reader in understanding the message of the text. When looking at the novel as a whole, it is clear nature bridges a connection between the audience and the author, by contextualizing events using the description of the setting where they take place. The narrator establishing the environment before delving into details about actions is a way to indicate to the reader potential outcomes of events, or foreshadow underlying emotions.

Symbolism in this novel does not stop with traditional aspects. Janet Tucker [3] explored the significance of clothing in respect to a character’s religious prospects and how their clothing reflects their beliefs or state of mind. When being worn by someone who has dedicated their life to Christ, clothing is modest and kept to the best of their ability. Sonya is a character in Crime and Punishment who serves as a deuteragonist, being one of the women that only have pure intentions when it comes to helping Raskolnikov. She tries to help Raskolnikov find faith and become a better person, and she does her best to comfort him in his worst moments of mental distress. Sonya even follows Raskolnikov to Siberia when he is imprisoned, despite his resistance to loving her. After analyzing this description of character, it can be said that Sonya’s clothes reflect the graciousness of her soul. She conceals her body in rags because she is poor, although she tries her best to keep them from becoming tattered, showing her values and how she maintains her composed state of mind. Comparing her to Raskolnikov, his mental state is too far distracted for him to care about trivial matters such as his appearance. His clothes are riddled with holes, and he lacks the incentive to fix the damage. An interesting point that Tucker made is how Raskolnikov uses his clothes in his crimes. He wears an overcoat that he uses to conceal his murder weapon and the items he has stolen from Ivanovna after killing her. Considering this, Tucker’s point is validated by the quality of clothing matching the quality of the person who bears it. Dostoevsky using clothing to portend the mental state and values that characters hold is a creative and effective way to give the readers insight as to how they will be progressing throughout the novel. Astute members of the audience will be able to recognize the differences among presentation of characters and base predictions about their actions off of their clothing. It is also interesting to see how characters’ religious affiliations can be observed through their attention to quality of clothing, reflecting how they choose to preserve and care for their items. In contrast to nature’s reflection of emotions, clothing gives insight about personal traits and the morals that shape a character into who they are.

While symbolism is important to developing the meaning behind Crime and Punishment , what makes this novel so notable are the philosophies it both challenges and embraces unintentionally. Existentialism [4] is a philosophy maintaining the belief that as individuals, there is a right within everyone to determine quality of life through acts of free will. It is easy to see how Crime and Punishment can be regarded by many existentialists as representative of this philosophy, but overall Dostoevsky is not one many would like to consider an archetype for existentialism. And, in retrospect, he is not. Dostoevsky’s main character in Crime and Punishment spends a lot of his time soliloquizing his belief that certain men are greater than others. Raskolnikov thinks men like this come to be by exercising their free will in ways that defy the common laws of life, but with the intention that what they are doing will better the world in the end. This idea is the reason behind Raskolnikov’s eventual murder of Alyona Ivanovna, a pawnbroker, and her half-sister Lizaveta. He kills Ivanovna as a way to test if he can be one of these people, but quickly discovers in the throes of his crime that he is not. This misconstrued idea of free will presented in Crime and Punishment can be where many begin to wonder if Dostoevsky was an existentialist. But a conclusion can be made that Dostoevsky’s free will is psychologically based and pushes the boundaries between what is right and what is wrong. Existentialism, on the other hand, is a philosophy centered around creativity and authenticity of the self.       

On a more granular level, while Dostoevsky was not an existentialist, his work shows his agreement with the philosophical concept of ego transcendence [5] . Transcendence of the ego is described as an advancement of the “authentic self” through experiences that result in a greater awareness. Once this awareness is achieved, this person usually begins to see themselves as greater than the average human. This is easily relatable to Raskolnikov’s philosophy that he reiterates often throughout the novel. The way that Dostoevsky sets his characters up for transcendence is through suffering. Richard Chapple analyzed the way Dostoevsky progresses Crime and Punishment by noting the use of the prism of the divine [6] . The prism of the divine includes 6 reasons that people suffer, and Dostoevsky provides different scenarios for representations of each reason. Raskolnikov suffers as a result of “recognition of transgression,” which is his guilt overpowering him after killing two women. It is even more stressful because in this guilt he realizes that he is not the monumental person he thought he was. In turn, he suffers because of “involvement in the torments and suffering of others,” as a result of brutally murdering his victims, followed by “greed and ambition.” Once failing to follow through with his entire plan beyond murdering Ivanovna, the weight of his ambition becomes heavy as it never had a chance at being attained. This dissatisfaction with himself contributes more to his depression than the fact that he is a murderer.

The last three prisms of the divine are “lack of faith,” “pride,” and the “inability to love.” Here, it is important to note Chapple’s perspective on how pride stems into all categories of suffering. Chapple discussed concepts such as clothing, a previously mentioned symbol, and how its relation to pride can be interpreted. He states, “The proud often suffer because of poverty or other seemingly external circumstances such as name, clothing and position. Pride generates a façade, and characters wear masks to conceal an inner reality…” (1983, p. 97). While Raskolnikov’s hubris is his biggest torment, Raskolnikov suffers for all of these reasons, and these intersections are where Sonya tries to ease his pain. When Raskolnikov is in his apartment with Sonya and is attempting to explain his crimes, she reassures him that she will not forsake him as he believes she will, going as far as to promise to follow him wherever he goes, even to prison. When he asks her what he should do, she advises him to go back to where he committed these atrocities, kiss the earth and kneel on the ground, then confess aloud that he is a murderer. By doing so, he is confessing to God and has a chance of being forgiven for his sins.

While religion plays a big role in Crime and Punishment , Dostoevsky’s implementation of Lazarus is predominately referencing the song rather than the biblical story- though that is mentioned. The Lazarus song [7] is a song that encapsulates the belief that the relationship between the rich and the poor should include the rich helping those in poverty by almsgiving. When Raskolnikov is preparing to face Porfiry Petrovich, a detective in the case of Ivanovna and Lizaveta’s murders, he says to himself “I’ll have to play the part of Lazarus for him too,” ( Crime and Punishment , 237). When Raskolnikov says this, he means that he is going to have to embrace his situation as a poor, college dropout, as a way to appear more innocent to Petrovich. This manipulation is seen from the side of poor people such as Raskolnikov, but also from those of wealth.

Raskolnikov’s sister, Dunya, was engaged to a man of the name Luzhin who expected her to marry him out of desperation. When Dunya backs out of the marriage, Luzhin scolds himself for not using his money to manipulate her into staying by purchasing expensive gifts, as opposed for thinking he should have treated her better. It is through secondary characters like these when many underlying messages are being portrayed. While Raskolnikov is the central character of Crime and Punishment , Dostoevsky uses secondary characters as a way to reflect certain aspects that Raskolnikov may be lacking, such as consciousness and an ability to recognize and admit to one’s mistakes. With Sonya, she was a part of a family that forced her into prostitution because they were too poor to provide for her, with a father who was too drunk to care. Marmeladov was the father’s name, and he is who Raskolnikov first meets in a bar and confesses to his shame about the situation he has put his daughter in. Similarly, Raskolnikov’s mother reduces his sister to working in uncomfortable scenarios in order to be able to send Raskolnikov to college. She feels guilt at this when Dunya becomes the center of town drama, after the husband in the family she works for begins to lust after her. These characters have made mistakes, but what parallels them to Raskolnikov is the fact that they acknowledge their wrongs, whereas he has to find the courage to do so .

Raskolnikov’s struggles with admitting that he can make mistakes like anybody else stem from his beliefs that there are two types of people in the world. He references Napoleon throughout the novel, because he believes him to be an example of how things considered to be bad have to happen in order for progress to be made. Pearl Niemi defines this as “power-cult [ 8] ,” the part of Raskolnikov believing in certain people’s superiority to regular laws. The part of Raskolnikov that cripples him once he tries exercising this belief can be referred to as “child-cult.” The child-cult is Raskolnikov’s emotions and thoughts that challenge the power-cult and ultimately overtake it. This duality within Raskolnikov has an interesting relation with his name. “Raskolot,” is the Russian verb meaning division, or split. When analyzing the schism between Raskolnikov’s feelings and actions, it gives his name a greater meaning and shows how Dostoevsky was very intentional with his work.

Considering what makes a novel notable, Hugh Curtler [9] elaborated on the idea that a novel which can be widely interpreted is what makes it memorable. Curtler referred to the part of the writer that allows for this to happen as the “poet,” because they write without clarification. In this respect, they acknowledge how Dostoevsky was successful at this throughout the majority of Crime and Punishment. Where Curtler thought Dostoevsky failed with this novel is in the epilogue. Instead of leaving the audience to gather their own opinions about certain aspects, he writes an epilogue that confirms what would have been better left unsaid, specifically Raskolnikov’s ability to feel emotions such as sadness, love, regret,etc .

In retrospect, Dostoevsky’s use of time, symbolism, and philosophical aspects in Crime and Punishment each provide different levels of meaning to the story. When incorporating the concept of time in terms of context and story progression, it allows the reader to grasp the importance of the events being foreshadowed, in addition to understanding the influences on decisions of characters. His attention to detail using motifs to communicate underlying emotions and intentions of his characters creates another layer of meaning for this novel, as the interpretation of these motifs make Crime and Punishment different for every reader. And lastly, Dostoevsky’s novel embraces different philosophies, while simultaneously maintaining its individuality from any one ideology. He writes this novel in a way where it applies to different ideals, wherein itself it is exclusive from being categorized, due to its unique central message. This message is one that can be applied to many time periods in history, including the 21 st century. The inevitable progression of societies tends to commonly leave those who are underprivileged to fend for themselves. When this isolation persists, is it unexpected to have people who attempt to create a life for themselves trying to prove that they are worth something, when their government treats them like nothing? Crime and Punishment provides a variety of perspectives for the audience’s consideration. Despite the many ways that this novel can be read and interpreted, one thing is clear, Crime and Punishment is illustrious.

Bourgeois, P. (1980). Dostoevsky and Existentialism: An Experiment in Hermeneutics. Journal of Thought, 15(2), 29-37. Retrieved May 8, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/42588842

Chapple, R. (1983). A Catalogue of Suffering in the Works of Dostoevsky: His Christian Foundation. The South Central Bulletin, 43(4), 94-99. doi:10.2307/3187246

Curtler, H. (2004). The Artistic Failure of Crime and Punishment.  Journal of Aesthetic Education,   38 (1), 1-11. doi:10.2307/3527358

Dostoevsky, F. (1866). Crime and Punishment. Signet Classics.

Gibian, G. (1955). Traditional Symbolism in Crime and Punishment.  PMLA,   70 (5), 979-996. doi:10.2307/459881

Harrison, L. (2013). THE NUMINOUS EXPERIENCE OF EGO TRANSCENDENCE IN DOSTOEVSKY. The Slavic and East European Journal, 57(3), 388-402. Retrieved May 8, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43857534

Ivanits, L. (2002). The Other Lazarus in Crime and Punishment.  The Russian Review,   61 (3), 341-357. Retrieved May 8, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3664132

Kohlberg, L. (1963). Psychological Analysis and Literary Form: A Study of the Doubles in Dostoevsky. Daedalus, 92(2), 345-362. Retrieved May 8, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20026782

Niemi, P. (1963). THE ART OF “CRIME AND PUNISHMENT”.  Modern Fiction Studies,   9 (4), 291-313. Retrieved May 8, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/26278717

Tucker, J. (2009). Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”: Stopping History’s Clock. Russian History, 36(3), 443-453. Retrieved May 8, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24664577

Tucker, J. (2000). The Religious Symbolism of Clothing in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. The Slavic and East European Journal, 44(2), 253-265. doi:10.2307/309952

[1] Tucker, J. (2009). Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”: Stopping History’s Clock. Russian History, 36(3), 443-453. Retrieved May 8, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24664577

[2] Gibian, G. (1955). Traditional Symbolism in Crime and Punishment. PMLA, 70(5), 979-996. doi:10.2307/459881

[3] Tucker, J. (2009). Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”: Stopping History’s Clock. Russian History, 36(3), 443-453. Retrieved May 8, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24664577

[4] Bourgeois, P. (1980). Dostoevsky and Existentialism: An Experiment in Hermeneutics. Journal of Thought, 15(2), 29-37. Retrieved May 8, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/42588842

[5] Harrison, L. (2013). THE NUMINOUS EXPERIENCE OF EGO TRANSCENDENCE IN DOSTOEVSKY. The Slavic and East European Journal, 57(3), 388-402. Retrieved May 8, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43857534

[6] Chapple, R. (1983). A Catalogue of Suffering in the Works of Dostoevsky: His Christian Foundation. The South Central Bulletin, 43(4), 94-99. doi:10.2307/3187246

[7 ] Ivanits, L. (2002). The Other Lazarus in Crime and Punishment. The Russian Review, 61(3), 341-357. Retrieved May 8, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3664132

[8 ] Niemi, P. (1963). THE ART OF “CRIME AND PUNISHMENT”. Modern Fiction Studies, 9(4), 291-313. Retrieved May 8, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/26278717

[9] Curtler, H. (2004). The Artistic Failure of Crime and Punishment. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 38(1), 1-11. doi:10.2307/3527358

Citation style: APA 6 th edition

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Crime and Punishment, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 301

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Crime is a violent act with an aim of hurting other individual. The aim of a crime is to destabilize the peace and tranquillity of the society. There are various aspects that make up a crime. They include:

  • The nature of the crime
  • The motive of the crime
  • Whether the culprit was caught or not
  • The punishment
  • The reason of the punishment
  • The effectiveness of the punishment

The above aspects are vital in understanding crime and punishment. Crime has origin like any other thing in existence. There are theories that have been brought up to understand crime with an aim of stopping it. These criminals behaviour are known to have been triggered by something to do these acts of violence. There are some French and Italian thinkers who have come up with various schools of thought to understand crime and the motives behind them. These thinkers have been able to understand the minds of criminals. Understanding the minds of the criminals can lead to early prevention of crime (Tonry, 2000).

The punishment for the crimes is something that has evolved through the ages. The punishment was meant to change the behaviour of the perpetrator and was to be fitting to the crime. This is something that initially brought up a lot of problems since the perpetrators came out not reformed. It is something that has changed over the ages as various reformers have come up to change the status quo.  These reformers made a significant difference and the change was positive. The main reason for punishment is being achieved now. This is now up for debate since change comes from an individual choice to change their habit and behaviour ( Dostoevsky, 2004).

Tonry H. Michael . (2000). The Handbook of Crime & Punishment . Foster City, CA: Oxford University press.

Dostoevsky F. (2004). Crime and Punishment Enriched Classics . Kentucky: Simon and Schuster.

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45 Crime and Punishment Essay Topics


Understanding the depth and breadth of “Crime and Punishment” is essential to effectively approach related essay topics. The text touches upon various aspects – the themes the author explores, the book’s characters and their influence on the plot, the literary techniques employed, and the story’s settings, to name a few. An essay on the subject should be thorough, and missing out on any aspect could signify a lack of dedication.

Choosing a topic can be a daunting task. But when given the freedom to choose, it also offers an opportunity to delve into an area that genuinely interests you.

Tips to Choose the Right Essay Topic:

Begin Broadly : Start with a general subject and then narrow it down. Eliminate topics that don’t resonate with you, leaving 3-to 5 you feel confident about.

Topic Characteristics : The topic should be interesting, relevant, and something you can thoroughly discuss.

Suggested Topics for Crime and Punishment Essays:

  • Author’s perspective on crime.
  • Svidrigailov’s dignified end: An in-depth analysis.
  • Portrayal of women in the narrative.
  • Evaluating freedom’s concept in “Crime and Punishment”.
  • Interpretation of law within the book.
  • Representation of Christianity.
  • Contrasting characters: Svidrigailov and Raskolnikov.
  • Theme of crime and its repercussions.
  • Relationship between law enforcement and justice.
  • Analyzing motives behind murders in the book.
  • Role of suffering in character development.
  • Exploration of poverty and its effects.
  • Mental torment faced by Raskolnikov post-crime.
  • Significance of dreams in the novel.
  • Examination of family bonds.
  • Symbolism of blood in the storyline.
  • Exploration of Raskolnikov’s theory of extraordinary men.
  • Influence of urban settings on the story’s mood.
  • The theme of resurrection and renewal.
  • Role of fate and free will in the narrative.
  • Analysis of secondary characters and their significance.
  • Social commentary and criticism in the book.
  • Exploration of the moral dilemma faced by characters.
  • The journey of redemption in the storyline.
  • The importance of confession in the narrative.
  • Exploration of the duality of human nature.
  • Examination of love as a redeeming force.
  • The philosophical underpinnings in the storyline.
  • Mental illness and its portrayal in the book.
  • Influence of the author’s personal life on the narrative.
  • Examination of despair and hope in the story.
  • The role of sacrifice in “Crime and Punishment”.
  • Analysis of the prison setting and its significance.
  • Exploration of the concept of justice in the book.
  • The juxtaposition of youth and age in the narrative.
  • Raskolnikov’s philosophical conflicts.
  • The underlying theme of existentialism.
  • Exploration of pride and its consequences.
  • Analysis of friendship dynamics in the story.
  • Examination of the power dynamics in the narrative.
  • Discussion on moral judgments and their implications.
  • The theme of alienation in “Crime and Punishment”.
  • Analysis of the epilog and its significance.

Practical Essay Ideas :

  • Dive into the historical setting of “Crime and Punishment”.
  • Explore the primary themes addressed by Dostoevsky.
  • Analyze the characters’ roles in the development of the plot.
  • Assess how the narrative impacts readers’ perceptions of crime.
  • Evaluate the language and its efficacy in delivering the intended message.
  • Reasons “Crime and Punishment” is deemed a classic.
  • Dostoevsky’s take on the legal system.

Need Assistance with Your Essay?

Crafting an insightful essay on “Crime and Punishment” requires a deep understanding of the book. If you’re finding it challenging, our experienced essay writers are here to help. With their expertise on the subject, no topic is too challenging. Reach out today and let an expert assist you.

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Crime and Punishment [IELTS Topics]

Posted by David S. Wills | Nov 20, 2020 | IELTS Tips | 0

Crime and Punishment [IELTS Topics]

If you have practised for IELTS writing, then you have more than likely encountered the IELTS topic of crime and punishment . I am not talking about the book by Russian novelist , Fyodor Dostoevsky. Instead, I mean the general topic that covers issues relating to crime, criminals, police, the law, and methods of punishing lawbreakers.

This is a pretty common topic in IELTS writing and also in the speaking test, so today I would like to show you some useful vocabulary and also to run through some crime and punishment IELTS essays so that you can better understand this topic.

IELTS Vocabulary for Crime and Punishment

If you want to prepare for the topic of crime and punishment, then you should learn some vocabulary to help you discuss it with ease. A great way to start is to read some news articles about crime. You can try searching your favourite English-language news source. I recommend the BBC , but any high-quality news outlet is fine. You might also find it useful to search Wikipedia for crime-related topics, such as “ capital punishment .” These will invariably contain many useful words. For example:

wikipedia article on capital punishment with highlighted vocabulary

Of course, I usually stress that you should not just learn words in isolation. Try to learn groups of words that commonly go together or longer phrases that might help you. For example, you could learn some adjectives and nouns that go together:

  • law-abiding citizens
  • hardened criminals

It is also worth noting that the word “criminal” can be a noun or an adjective:

  • criminal behaviour (adjective)
  • an unrepentant criminal (noun)

Notice that I am mixing adjectives and nouns to provide more accurate and also colourful language. This is a good way to improve your writing skills – but of course it only helps when the language is used accurately.

Here is a video that I recently made covering the topic of crime and punishment as it relates to IELTS. This includes some useful vocabulary to talk about the court system:

  • attorney vs solicitor
  • capital punishment and its synonyms
  • jail vs prison

More Vocabulary: Types of Crime and Criminals

If you want to talk about crime, then it would be useful to know the name of various crimes and also the criminal associated with them. Here’s a list of crime words I made for you:

IELTS Speaking: Crime and Punishment

The topic of crime and punishment could be considered quite controversial in some ways. Think about the issues that arise: imprisonment, violence, reforming criminals. These are serious issues that cannot be summed up in short sentences without further justification. As such, this is not a common topic for part one of the speaking test.

Likewise, you probably would not be asked to talk about this for part two. Can you imagine if the cue card said, “Describe a criminal you know?” 🤨 That would not really be appropriate. It has the potential to make people feel embarrassed or ashamed or even to completely draw a blank.

Therefore, crime and punishment mostly arises in part three of the IELTS speaking test. This is where you are asked about bigger issues that require more thought and explanation. These can be viewed as similar to the sorts of question you see in task two of the writing exam.

IELTS Speaking Part 3 Questions: Crime

ielts speaking questions about crime

Here are some example questions and answers from part three of the speaking test:

Q: Do you think that young criminals should be sent to prison for serious crimes?

A: No, I do not think that it is right to send young offenders to prison. In fact, that seems to be the worst way to deal with them. In any advanced society, juvenile delinquents should be dealt with through education, with the intention of reforming them into law-abiding adults. Sending them to jail or prison simply puts them in contact with other criminals and makes them more likely to commit further offenses.

Q: What do you think makes people commit acts of violent crime?

A: Well, crimes have different motivations. Some are committed out of desperation and others are crimes of passion. In other words, they are spur-of-the-moment offenses that had no forethought. Then there are other crimes that are definitely pre-meditated. These are the worst ones and probably the hardest to pin down in terms of motivation. In any case, it is hard to say what makes people do these things, except that it depends entirely upon the individual case.

Q: Do you think that video games encourage young people to commit crimes?

A: No, absolutely not, and the scientific consensus nowadays appears to back that stance. The idea that video games encourage people to commit crimes is laughable. If this was true, we would have to go and censor TV and books, and even change how we report the news. People who are going to commit crimes do so for a variety of reasons, but to suggest that they do it to imitate a game is quite absurd. If someone really did claim that their crime was inspired by a computer game, they would probably be lying or else they had underlying mental issues that made them particularly susceptible to outside influences.

Crime and Punishment IELTS Essay Topics

This topic is much more common in the writing exam than other parts because it requires the expression of complex ideas. As such, you will see many IELTS writing task 2 questions about crime and punishment.

Common sub-topics include:

  • young people and crime
  • capital punishment
  • reasons for criminal behaviour
  • reforming offenders

Crime and Punishment IELTS Essay

Here is a quite representative task 2 essay question:

Some people think that offenders should be put in prison. Others, however, believe that providing offenders with education and training is more effective than putting them in prison. Discuss both these views and give your own opinion.

Sample Band 9 Answer

For thousands of years, people have discussed the different ways of dealing with criminals, and even in the modern era there is a great degree of disagreement on this subject. Some believe that prison is an effective measure, but others argue that education and training would be better. This essay will look at both sides of the argument and then argue in favour of a balanced approach.

For centuries, prisons have been used as a way of both punishing criminals and keeping them away from law-abiding citizens. Although it works as a deterrent and also as a practical means of keeping society safe, it is not without its controversy. For one thing, prisons are notorious hubs of gang activity, and impressionable young lawbreakers can easily be moulded into hardened criminals during a short stint behind bars. Moreover, prisons are violent places where young offenders can be raped, beaten, or even killed during their sentence, and when they are released they carry with them the stigma of their incarceration. This means that they will struggle to return to normal society and, for this reason, recidivism rates can be quite high in some places. Thus, although prisons are an effective means of punishing people and keeping society safe, they are not without substantial problems.

On the other hand, educating and training criminals is controversial because people tend to think of it as overly lenient. Many law-abiding citizens believe that those who break the law should be punished harshly or else there is little reason to adhere to the rules. However, this approach should not be seen as rewarding criminals but rather rehabilitating people who were pushed to extreme actions by their unfortunate circumstances. Statistically, most prison inmates come from backgrounds of poverty and abuse, so giving them a helping hand can be more beneficial than punishing them and then hoping that they do not return to a life of crime.

In conclusion, this is an extremely complex issue that requires serious scrutiny, but it appears as though prison should be reserved only for violent and habitual offenders while the majority of petty criminals should be dealt with through education and training.

Notes on the Answer

There was a lot of great vocabulary in this answer for the purposes of a descriptive and thoughtful essay:

  • impressionable young lawbreakers
  • a short stint behind bars
  • the stigma of their incarceration
  • recidivism rates
  • rehabilitating
  • requires serious scrutiny
  • petty criminals

Task 1 – Crime-related Essays

For IELTS writing task 1, it is also possible that you could have to describe data about crime. This is harder to predict because it really could be about almost anything, but here is an example of a line graph about various types of criminal activity:

newport crime rate line graph

The line graph shows changes in crime rates over a ten-year period in the city centre of Newport. Three types of crimes are listed, two of which ended the period at roughly similar levels to where they began, and one experienced a major drop.

In 2003, which was the beginning of the recorded period, burglary was the most common type of crime in Newport, with just under 3,500 cases reported. This rose slightly the following year, before entering into a long downward trend, reaching a low of about 1,200 in 2008. After this, the number of burglaries reported fluctuated until 2012.

The number of car thefts was about 2,800 in 2003, and ended the period slightly lower, at 2,700. During the decade-long period, it fluctuated, reaching low points in 2006 and 2008. Car theft was the second most common type of crime in 2003, but the fall in burglaries meant that from 2008 onwards, they were the most common crime in Newport.

Robberies were the least common crime and followed a somewhat similar trend to that of car thefts, starting and ending the period with around 700 incidents. It fluctuated only slightly during the ten-year period.

This essay originally appeared here .

About The Author

David S. Wills

David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' and the founder/editor of Beatdom literary journal. He lives and works in rural Cambodia and loves to travel. He has worked as an IELTS tutor since 2010, has completed both TEFL and CELTA courses, and has a certificate from Cambridge for Teaching Writing. David has worked in many different countries, and for several years designed a writing course for the University of Worcester. In 2018, he wrote the popular IELTS handbook, Grammar for IELTS Writing and he has since written two other books about IELTS. His other IELTS website is called IELTS Teaching.

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Crime and Punishment Essay Topics

Crime and punishment essay topics: 55 approved ideas.

The purpose of writing the essay is to understand the subject better and to remember useful information. In addition, when we work on a paper, we develop organizational and goal-oriented skills that are useful in the study and common life.

As a rule, students are offered a fairly wide range of essay topics about Crime and Punishment. Choosing the right theme that will meet the future author’s cognitive interests is very important. In addition, the topic should not be too general, global since a relatively small amount of work will not allow it to reveal it at 100%.

How to Select the Best Crime and Punishment Essay Topic?

Let’s formulate a topic for the essay. Sometimes the teacher gives it to you specifically. Sometimes he asks you to choose from a long list of topics. Sometimes he leaves you with complete freedom of choice, as long as the paper is a part of the course. When choosing a topic, it is important to be guided by one’s interest too. If the theme is close and interesting to you, writing a paper will be quick and enjoyable. This works even on Dostoevsky topics which are inherently deeper and more complicated than others.

The availability of literature should also be taken into account. If you have time to think, it is better to mark two or three topics for yourself (no more) and to search for already existing research. Choose a theme on which there will be a lot of quality material.

When writing an essay, remember these things:

  • The essay does not copy books and articles word for word and is not an outline.
  • The literature essay is not written by one source, and it is not a report.
  • The essay cannot be a literature review.
  • In the essay, the material collected on the topic is systematized and synthesized.

Below we have prepared for you a list of “Crime and Punishment” by Dostoevsky themes that are most suitable for the US study establishments.

List of Crime and Punishment Essay Topics: TOP-15

  • The main characters of the novel.
  • The deep analysis of the novel .
  • Heroes of the novel.
  • Doubles of Raskolnikov in the novel.
  • The kindness of Sonya Marmeladova.
  • Dunya Raskolnikova.
  • Female images in the novel.
  • Raskolnikov’s cruelty.
  • Raskolnikov’s idea.
  • History of the novel’s creation.
  • Rodion’s room.
  • Rodion’s mother.
  • Kindness and Cruelty in “Crime and Punishment.”
  • Revenge and Generosity in “Crime and Punishment.”
  • Dream and Reality in “Crime and Punishment.”

15 Good Essay Topics for Crime and Punishment

  • Raskolnikov’s dream.
  • The motive for the murder of Raskolnikov.
  • Raskolnikov’s punishment.
  • The life of St. Petersburg in the novel.
  • The image and thoughts of Rodion.
  • The image and thoughts of Svidrigailov.
  • The comparison of images and thoughts of Svidrigailov and Luzhin.
  • The image and thoughts of Sonya.
  • Description of Marmeladov.
  • Raskolnikov’s truth and Sonya’s truth.
  • The truth of Sonya Marmeladova.
  • The reasons for the crime of Raskolnikov.
  • The main problems of the novel .
  • The Marmeladov family.
  • Raskolnikov’s family.

10 Popular Crime and Punishment Essay Topics in 2023

  • Role of rehabilitation in criminal justice systems.
  • Exploring the effectiveness of restorative justice practices.
  • Analyzing the relationship between poverty and crime rates.
  • Impact of technology on modern-day crime prevention.
  • Juvenile delinquency. Understanding causes and solutions.
  • Examining the ethics of capital punishment in contemporary society.
  • Influence of media portrayal on public perception of criminals.
  • Addressing cybercrime. Challenges and strategies for prevention.
  • Influence of social media on crime reporting and public perceptions.
  • Relationship between mental health and criminal behavior.

5 Crime and Punishment Essay Questions

  • Why did Rodion confess?
  • Why did Rodion kill the old money-lender?
  • What is the meaning of comparing Luzhin and Raskolnikov?
  • Why does Rodion suffer and is tormented after the crime?
  • Why did Rodion commit a crime?

10 Crime and Punishment Essay Ideas

  • The meaning of the title of the novel.
  • The meaning of Raskolnikov’s theory.
  • Rodion’s dreams and their meaning.
  • Rodion’s dream about hard labor.
  • Rodion’s dream of a horse.
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write an essay on crime and punishment

An Essay on Crimes and Punishments

  • Cesare Bonesana di Beccaria (author)
  • Voltaire (author)

An extremely influential Enlightenment treatise on legal reform in which Beccaria advocates the ending of torture and the death penalty. The book also contains a lengthy commentary by Voltaire which is an indication of high highly French enlightened thinkers regarded the work.

  • EBook PDF This text-based PDF or EBook was created from the HTML version of this book and is part of the Portable Library of Liberty.
  • Facsimile PDF This is a facsimile or image-based PDF made from scans of the original book.
  • Kindle This is an E-book formatted for Amazon Kindle devices.

An Essay on Crimes and Punishments. By the Marquis Beccaria of Milan. With a Commentary by M. de Voltaire. A New Edition Corrected. (Albany: W.C. Little & Co., 1872).

The text is in the public domain.

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Crime & Punishment Essay Titles

IELTS Essay Questions for the Topic of Crime & Punishment. All essay questions below are reported by IELTS candidates and seem to have been repeated over the years. Regardless of the years the questions were reported, you could get any question below in your test. You should, therefore, prepare ideas for all questions given below. This topic is more likely to appear in the Academic test than the GT writing test. However, all candidates should prepare for all topics to be safe.

Crime & Punishment Essay Questions for IELTS Writing Task 2

The crime rate nowadays is decreasing compared to the past due to advance technology which can prevent and solve crime. Do you agree or disagree? (Reported 2017, 2021 Academic Test)
Many criminals commit further crimes as soon as they released from prison. What do you think are the causes of this? What possible solutions can you suggest? (Reported 2015, 2017, 2022 Academic Test)
It is often thought that the increase in juvenile crime can be attributed to violence in the media. Do you agree that this is the main cause of juvenile crime? What solutions can you offer to deal with this situation? (common question)
In some societies, the number of crimes committed by teenagers is growing. Some people think that regardless of age, teenagers who commit major crimes should receive adult punishment. To what extent do you agree? (2020, 2023)
Some countries are struggling with an increase in the rate of crime. Many people think that having more police on the streets is the only way to reduce crime. To what extent do you agree? (2018, 2020)
Some people think that women should not be allowed to work in the police force. Do you agree or disagree?
Many crimes are often related to the consumption of alcohol. Some people think that the best way to reduce the crime rate is to ban alcohol. Do you think this is an effective measure against crime? What other solutions can you suggest?
Some people think certain prisoners should be made to do unpaid community work instead of being put behind bars. To what extent do you agree? (Reported 2017, 2020, GT Test)
Many people believe that having a fixed punishment for all crimes is more efficient. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a fixed punishment? (common question)
Some people think that the government should be responsible for crime prevention, while others believe that it is the responsibility of the individual to protect themselves. Discuss both sides and give your opinion.
The death penalty is the best way to control and reduce serious crime. To what extent do you agree? (2018, 2020)
While it is sometimes thought that prison is the best place for criminals, others believe that there are better ways to deal with them. What is your opinion? (common question – this is often reworded with a focus on the best ways to deal with criminals)
Crime rate, in most countries, is often higher in urban areas than in rural areas. Why do you think that is? What can be done to reduce the crime rate?
Some people think that poverty is the reason behind most crimes. Do you agree or disagree?
Internet crime is increasing rapidly as more and more people are using the internet to make financial transactions. What can be done to tackle this problem ?
Some people think that the parents of children who commit crime should also receive a punishment. Do you agree or disagree? (2020)

Reported essay questions are from students who have taken their IELTS test. That means questions may have appeared more frequently than have been reported. These questions may vary slightly in wording and focus from the original question. Also note that these questions could also appear in IELTS speaking part 3 which is another good reason to prepare all topics thoroughly.

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write an essay on crime and punishment

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Youth Crime and Punishment Essay

Introduction, causes of youth crime, types of crimes committed by youth, the law on youth criminals/punishment, works cited.

Crime can be described as a deviant behavior that violates the prevailing norms or cultural standards prescribing how humans ought to behave normally (Gary 4). Statistics state that the youth crime rate has increased over the years but the big question is how has that happened and why. The current generation youth has been exposed to so many immoral behaviors and they desire to ape what is happening around them. Parents, teachers, media and peer groups are largely to be blamed for these results because they are the ideal tool of control to the youth. In the United States and Canada, youth has resulted to commit crimes in defense of discriminatory acts.

The “rod” what happened to it? Is it part of the blame? Drug related crimes, homicides committed by youth and even property crimes just to mention but a few are crimes that the youth commit. Punishment is seen as one way of tackling and minimizing the crime rates but has it been effective? If the law enforcers have voted it in and made sure it is in action the why is the crime rates among the youth taking its toll in the society (Gary 23).

There are major risk factors that lead the youth to commit crime which include; Parental supervision and discipline which is characterized with harsh and erratic parental discipline, cold or rejecting parental attitudes has led to the children lacking inhibition against offending. Parental conflict and separation also contributes to the youth crimes. Having separated parents or a broken home does not create the high risk of offending rather the parental conflict which led to the separation.

Social and Economic deprivation are important factors contributing to antisocial behavior and crime. Research states that the risk of becoming criminally involved is higher for young people raised in disorganized inner city areas, characterized by physical deterioration and overcrowded households (Donald 473).

Drug related offenses are prevalent; also property crime rates have been evident especially in the schools. Research states that1 in 10 youth crimes occurred on school property, assaults being the most prevalent offenses (27%).Homicides among teenagers have contributed negatively to the society especially among the victims (Gary 46).

The question has been why has the crime rates been so much adverse yet the law on the youth crimes is being enforced? There has been an alarm over youth crimes but few efforts reduce the rate offer partial solutions to the problem. Many crime-control projects have been initiated but there is little appreciable effect. Some of the experts believe that locking up large numbers of the worst offenders would bring reduction but others question the applicability of such a move (Bureau of Justice Statistics 162). Therefore, we see that punishment on the youth crimes have not had any effect whatsoever. This implicates that the society continues to become rotten because the law has failed to do its part.

Based on the above we need to look for strategies which will be effective and control or even rehabilitate the offenders among the youth. First, the causes should be looked at in depth and thoroughly scrutinized. This is the most basic thing which should be done to come up with effective resolutions. The reason is that we are answering the question ‘why do the youth go out and commit offenses?’ what drives them to offend is what should be dealt with first. Issues of parental conflict, socio-economic issues, and harsh discipline from the parents should be addressed adequately. They should pass a law that makes it mandatory for parent to take parental class so as to bring up their children in a socially acceptable way. Secondly the law enforcers should look at what went wrong to the laws they are following and make quick amendments which will be fair and effective to both the youth and the society.

Bureau of Justice Statistics. Performance Measures for the Criminal Justice System: Discussion from the BJS-Princeton Project. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, 1993. 152-179.

Cressey, Donald R. “Crime: I. Causes of Crime.” vol. 3. New York: Macmillan and Free Press, 1968. 471–476.

LaFree, Gary. Losing Legitimacy: Street Crime and the Decline of Social Institutions in America. Boulder, Colo.: West view, 1998. 3-52.

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IvyPanda. (2021, October 23). Youth Crime and Punishment. https://ivypanda.com/essays/youth-crime-and-punishment/

"Youth Crime and Punishment." IvyPanda , 23 Oct. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/youth-crime-and-punishment/.

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IvyPanda . 2021. "Youth Crime and Punishment." October 23, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/youth-crime-and-punishment/.

1. IvyPanda . "Youth Crime and Punishment." October 23, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/youth-crime-and-punishment/.


IvyPanda . "Youth Crime and Punishment." October 23, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/youth-crime-and-punishment/.

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Guest Essay

What Sentencing Could Look Like if Trump Is Found Guilty

A black-and-white photo of Donald Trump, standing behind a metal barricade.

By Norman L. Eisen

Mr. Eisen is the author of “Trying Trump: A Guide to His First Election Interference Criminal Trial.”

For all the attention to and debate over the unfolding trial of Donald Trump in Manhattan, there has been surprisingly little of it paid to a key element: its possible outcome and, specifically, the prospect that a former and potentially future president could be sentenced to prison time.

The case — brought by Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, against Mr. Trump — represents the first time in our nation’s history that a former president is a defendant in a criminal trial. As such, it has generated lots of debate about the case’s legal strength and integrity, as well as its potential impact on Mr. Trump’s efforts to win back the White House.

A review of thousands of cases in New York that charged the same felony suggests something striking: If Mr. Trump is found guilty, incarceration is an actual possibility. It’s not certain, of course, but it is plausible.

Jury selection has begun, and it’s not too soon to talk about what the possibility of a sentence, including a prison sentence, would look like for Mr. Trump, for the election and for the country — including what would happen if he is re-elected.

The case focuses on alleged interference in the 2016 election, which consisted of a hush-money payment Michael Cohen, the former president’s fixer at the time, made in 2016 to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump. Mr. Bragg is arguing that the cover-up cheated voters of the chance to fully assess Mr. Trump’s candidacy.

This may be the first criminal trial of a former president in American history, but if convicted, Mr. Trump’s fate is likely to be determined by the same core factors that guide the sentencing of every criminal defendant in New York State Court.

Comparable cases. The first factor is the base line against which judges measure all sentences: how other defendants have been treated for similar offenses. My research encompassed almost 10,000 cases of felony falsifying business records that have been prosecuted across the state of New York since 2015. Over a similar period, the Manhattan D.A. has charged over 400 of these cases . In roughly the first year of Mr. Bragg’s tenure, his team alone filed 166 felony counts for falsifying business records against 34 people or companies.

Contrary to claims that there will be no sentence of incarceration for falsifying business records, when a felony conviction involves serious misconduct, defendants can be sentenced to some prison time. My analysis of the most recent data indicates that approximately one in 10 cases in which the most serious charge at arraignment is falsifying business records in the first degree and in which the court ultimately imposes a sentence, results in a term of imprisonment.

To be clear, these cases generally differ from Mr. Trump’s case in one important respect: They typically involve additional charges besides just falsifying records. That clearly complicates what we might expect if Mr. Trump is convicted.

Nevertheless, there are many previous cases involving falsifying business records along with other charges where the conduct was less serious than is alleged against Mr. Trump and prison time was imposed. For instance, Richard Luthmann was accused of attempting to deceive voters — in his case, impersonating New York political figures on social media in an attempt to influence campaigns. He pleaded guilty to three counts of falsifying business records in the first degree (as well as to other charges). He received a sentence of incarceration on the felony falsification counts (although the sentence was not solely attributable to the plea).

A defendant in another case was accused of stealing in excess of $50,000 from her employer and, like in this case, falsifying one or more invoices as part of the scheme. She was indicted on a single grand larceny charge and ultimately pleaded guilty to one felony count of business record falsification for a false invoice of just under $10,000. She received 364 days in prison.

To be sure, for a typical first-time offender charged only with run-of-the-mill business record falsification, a prison sentence would be unlikely. On the other hand, Mr. Trump is being prosecuted for 34 counts of conduct that might have changed the course of American history.

Seriousness of the crime. Mr. Bragg alleges that Mr. Trump concealed critical information from voters (paying hush money to suppress an extramarital relationship) that could have harmed his campaign, particularly if it came to light after the revelation of another scandal — the “Access Hollywood” tape . If proved, that could be seen not just as unfortunate personal judgment but also, as Justice Juan Merchan has described it, an attempt “to unlawfully influence the 2016 presidential election.”

History and character. To date, Mr. Trump has been unrepentant about the events alleged in this case. There is every reason to believe that will not change even if he is convicted, and lack of remorse is a negative at sentencing. Justice Merchan’s evaluation of Mr. Trump’s history and character may also be informed by the other judgments against him, including Justice Arthur Engoron’s ruling that Mr. Trump engaged in repeated and persistent business fraud, a jury finding that he sexually abused and defamed E. Jean Carroll and a related defamation verdict by a second jury.

Justice Merchan may also weigh the fact that Mr. Trump has been repeatedly held in contempt , warned , fined and gagged by state and federal judges. That includes for statements he made that exposed witnesses, individuals in the judicial system and their families to danger. More recently, Mr. Trump made personal attacks on Justice Merchan’s daughter, resulting in an extension of the gag order in the case. He now stands accused of violating it again by commenting on witnesses.

What this all suggests is that a term of imprisonment for Mr. Trump, while far from certain for a former president, is not off the table. If he receives a sentence of incarceration, perhaps the likeliest term is six months, although he could face up to four years, particularly if Mr. Trump chooses to testify, as he said he intends to do , and the judge believes he lied on the stand . Probation is also available, as are more flexible approaches like a sentence of spending every weekend in jail for a year.

We will probably know what the judge will do within 30 to 60 days of the end of the trial, which could run into mid-June. If there is a conviction, that would mean a late summer or early fall sentencing.

Justice Merchan would have to wrestle in the middle of an election year with the potential impact of sentencing a former president and current candidate.

If Mr. Trump is sentenced to a period of incarceration, the reaction of the American public will probably be as polarized as our divided electorate itself. Yet as some polls suggest — with the caveat that we should always be cautious of polls early in the race posing hypothetical questions — many key swing state voters said they would not vote for a felon.

If Mr. Trump is convicted and then loses the presidential election, he will probably be granted bail, pending an appeal, which will take about a year. That means if any appeals are unsuccessful, he will most likely have to serve any sentence starting sometime next year. He will be sequestered with his Secret Service protection; if it is less than a year, probably in Rikers Island. His protective detail will probably be his main company, since Mr. Trump will surely be isolated from other inmates for his safety.

If Mr. Trump wins the presidential election, he can’t pardon himself because it is a state case. He will be likely to order the Justice Department to challenge his sentence, and department opinions have concluded that a sitting president could not be imprisoned, since that would prevent the president from fulfilling the constitutional duties of the office. The courts have never had to address the question, but they could well agree with the Justice Department.

So if Mr. Trump is convicted and sentenced to a period of incarceration, its ultimate significance is probably this: When the American people go to the polls in November, they will be voting on whether Mr. Trump should be held accountable for his original election interference.

What questions do you have about Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial so far?

Please submit them below. Our trial experts will respond to a selection of readers in a future piece.

Norman L. Eisen investigated the 2016 voter deception allegations as counsel for the first impeachment and trial of Donald Trump and is the author of “Trying Trump: A Guide to His First Election Interference Criminal Trial.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , WhatsApp , X and Threads .

A man walks past a tent on a grassy field, with a school in the background

Supreme Court to consider whether local governments can make it a crime to sleep outside if no inside space is available

write an essay on crime and punishment

Professor of the Practice of Law, University of Southern California

Disclosure statement

Clare Pastore is a former Senior Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which is one of the ACLU offices included in the organization's amicus brief in the case supporting the homeless litigants in city of Grants Pass v. Johnson. Her employment with the ACLU ended in 2007, years before this case was filed.

University of Southern California provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

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On April 22, 2024, the Supreme Court will hear a case that could radically change how cities respond to the growing problem of homelessness. It also could significantly worsen the nation’s racial justice gap .

City of Grants Pass v. Johnson began when a small city in Oregon with just one homeless shelter began enforcing a local anti-camping law against people sleeping in public using a blanket or any other rudimentary protection against the elements – even if they had nowhere else to go. The court must now decide whether it is unconstitutional to punish homeless people for doing in public things that are necessary to survive, such as sleeping, when there is no option to do these acts in private.

The case raises important questions about the scope of the Constitution’s cruel and unusual punishment clause and the limits of cities’ power to punish involuntary conduct. As a specialist in poverty law, civil rights and access to justice who has litigated many cases in this area, I know that homelessness in the U.S. is a function of poverty, not criminality, and is strongly correlated with racial inequality . In my view, if cities get a green light to continue criminalizing inevitable behaviors, these disparities can only increase.

A national crisis

Homelessness in the United States is a massive problem. The number of people without homes held steady during the COVID-19 pandemic largely because of eviction moratoriums and the temporary availability of expanded public benefits , but it has risen sharply since 2022.

The latest data from the federal government’s annual “ Point-in-Time” homeless count found 653,000 people homeless across the U.S. on a single night in 2023 – a 12% increase from 2022 and the highest number reported since the counts began in 2007. Of the people counted, nearly 300,000 were living on the street or in parks, rather than indoors in temporary shelters or safe havens.

The survey also shows that all homelessness is not the same. About 22% of homeless people are deemed chronically homeless, meaning they are without shelter for a year or more, while most experience a temporary or episodic lack of shelter. A 2021 study found that 53% of homeless shelter residents and nearly half of unsheltered people were employed .

Scholars and policymakers have spent many years analyzing the causes of homelessness. They include wage stagnation, shrinking public benefits, inadequate treatment for mental illness and addiction, and the politics of siting affordable housing. There is little disagreement, however, that the simple mismatch between the vast need for affordable housing and the limited supply is a central cause .

Homelessness and race

Like poverty, homelessness in the U.S. is not race-neutral . Black Americans represent 13% of the population but comprise 21% of people living in poverty and 37% of people experiencing homelessness.

The largest percentage increase in homelessness for any racial group in 2023 was 40% among Asians and Asian-Americans. The largest numerical increase was among people identifying as what the Department of Housing and Urban Development calls “Latin(a)(o)(x),” with nearly 40,000 more homeless in 2023 than in 2022.

This disproportionality means that criminalizing homelessness likewise has a disparate racial effect. A 2020 study in Austin, Texas, showed that Black homeless people were 10 times more likely than white homeless people to be cited by police for camping on public property.

According to a recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, 1 in 8 Atlanta city jail bookings in 2022 were of people experiencing homelessness. The criminalization of homelessness has roots in historical use of vagrancy and loitering laws against Black Americans dating back to the 19th century.

Crackdowns on the homeless

Increasing homelessness, especially its visible manifestations such as tent encampments, has frustrated city residents, businesses and policymakers across the U.S. and led to an increase in crackdowns against homeless people. Reports from the National Homelessness Law Center in 2019 and 2021 have tallied hundreds of laws restricting camping, sleeping, sitting, lying down, panhandling and loitering in public.

Just since 2022, Texas , Tennessee and Missouri have passed statewide bans on camping on public property, with Tennessee making it a felony.

Georgia has enacted a law requiring localities to enforce public camping bans . Even some cities led by Democrats, including San Diego and Portland, Oregon , have established tougher anti-camping regulations.

Under presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden, the federal government has asserted that criminal sanctions are rarely useful. Instead it has emphasized alternatives , such as supportive services, specialty courts and coordinated systems of care, along with increased housing supply.

Some cities have had striking success with these measures. But not all communities are on board.

People stand on a sidewalk holding signs reading 'Parks Are for Kids' and 'Drug Free Parks'

The Grants Pass case

Grants Pass v. Johnson culminates years of struggle over how far cities can go to discourage homeless people from residing within their borders, and whether or when criminal sanctions for actions such as sleeping in public are permissible.

In a 2019 case, Martin v. City of Boise , the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Eighth Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment clause forbids criminalizing sleeping in public when a person has no private place to sleep. The decision was based on a 1962 Supreme Court case, Robinson v. California , which held that it is unconstitutional to criminalize being a drug addict. Robinson and a subsequent case, Powell v. Texas , have come to stand for distinguishing between status, which cannot constitutionally be punished, and conduct, which can.

In the Grants Pass ruling, the 9th Circuit went one step further than it had in the Boise case and held that the Constitution also banned criminalizing the act of public sleeping with rudimentary protection from the elements . The decision was contentious: Judges disagreed over whether the anti-camping ban regulated conduct or the status of being homeless, which inevitably leads to sleeping outside when there is no alternative.

Grants Pass is urging the Supreme Court to abandon the Robinson precedent and its progeny as “moribund and misguided.” It argues that the Eighth Amendment forbids only certain cruel methods of punishment, which do not include fines and jail terms.

The homeless plaintiffs argue that they do not challenge reasonable regulation of the time and place of outdoor sleeping, the city’s ability to limit the size or location of homeless groups or encampments, or the legitimacy of punishing those who insist on remaining in public when shelter is available. But they argue that broad anti-camping laws inflict overly harsh punishments for “wholly innocent, universally unavoidable behavior” and that punishing people for “simply existing outside without access to shelter” will not reduce this activity.

They contend that criminalizing sleeping in public when there is no alternative violates the Eighth Amendment in three ways: by criminalizing the “status” of homelessness, by imposing disproportionate punishment on innocent and unavoidable acts, and by imposing punishment without a legitimate deterrent or rehabilitative goal.

The case has attracted dozens of amicus briefs , including from numerous cities and counties that support Grants Pass. They assert that the 9th Circuit’s recent decisions have worsened homelessness, stymied law enforcement and left jurisdictions without clear guidelines for preserving public order and safety.

On the other hand, the states of Maryland, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Vermont filed a brief urging the Court to uphold the 9th Circuit’s ruling, arguing that local governments retain ample tools to address homelessness and that criminalizing tends to worsen rather than alleviate the problem.

A brief from 165 former local elected officials agrees. Service providers, social scientists and professional organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association filed briefs noting that criminalization increases barriers to education, employment and eventual recovery; erodes community trust; and can force people back into abusive situations. They also highlight research showing the effectiveness of a nonpunitive “housing first” model .

A race to the bottom?

The current Supreme Court is generally extremely sympathetic to law enforcement, but even its conservative members may balk at allowing a city to criminalize inevitable acts by homeless people. Doing so could spark competition among cities to create the most punitive regime in hopes of effectively banishing homeless residents.

Still, at least some justices may sympathize with the city’s argument that upholding the 9th Circuit’s ruling “logically would immunize numerous other purportedly involuntary acts from prosecution, such as drug use by addicts, public intoxication by alcoholics, and possession of child pornography by pedophiles.” However the court rules, this case will likely affect the health and welfare of thousands of people experiencing homelessness in cities across the U.S.

This article has been updated to reflect that Texas has made camping on public property a misdemeanor and Tennessee has made it a felony.

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  • US Supreme Court
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  • Homelessness
  • Racial justice
  • Homeless encampments

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NPR suspends veteran editor as it grapples with his public criticism

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David Folkenflik

write an essay on crime and punishment

NPR suspended senior editor Uri Berliner for five days without pay after he wrote an essay accusing the network of losing the public's trust and appeared on a podcast to explain his argument. Uri Berliner hide caption

NPR suspended senior editor Uri Berliner for five days without pay after he wrote an essay accusing the network of losing the public's trust and appeared on a podcast to explain his argument.

NPR has formally punished Uri Berliner, the senior editor who publicly argued a week ago that the network had "lost America's trust" by approaching news stories with a rigidly progressive mindset.

Berliner's five-day suspension without pay, which began last Friday, has not been previously reported.

Yet the public radio network is grappling in other ways with the fallout from Berliner's essay for the online news site The Free Press . It angered many of his colleagues, led NPR leaders to announce monthly internal reviews of the network's coverage, and gave fresh ammunition to conservative and partisan Republican critics of NPR, including former President Donald Trump.

Conservative activist Christopher Rufo is among those now targeting NPR's new chief executive, Katherine Maher, for messages she posted to social media years before joining the network. Among others, those posts include a 2020 tweet that called Trump racist and another that appeared to minimize rioting during social justice protests that year. Maher took the job at NPR last month — her first at a news organization .

In a statement Monday about the messages she had posted, Maher praised the integrity of NPR's journalists and underscored the independence of their reporting.

"In America everyone is entitled to free speech as a private citizen," she said. "What matters is NPR's work and my commitment as its CEO: public service, editorial independence, and the mission to serve all of the American public. NPR is independent, beholden to no party, and without commercial interests."

The network noted that "the CEO is not involved in editorial decisions."

In an interview with me later on Monday, Berliner said the social media posts demonstrated Maher was all but incapable of being the person best poised to direct the organization.

"We're looking for a leader right now who's going to be unifying and bring more people into the tent and have a broader perspective on, sort of, what America is all about," Berliner said. "And this seems to be the opposite of that."

write an essay on crime and punishment

Conservative critics of NPR are now targeting its new chief executive, Katherine Maher, for messages she posted to social media years before joining the public radio network last month. Stephen Voss/Stephen Voss hide caption

Conservative critics of NPR are now targeting its new chief executive, Katherine Maher, for messages she posted to social media years before joining the public radio network last month.

He said that he tried repeatedly to make his concerns over NPR's coverage known to news leaders and to Maher's predecessor as chief executive before publishing his essay.

Berliner has singled out coverage of several issues dominating the 2020s for criticism, including trans rights, the Israel-Hamas war and COVID. Berliner says he sees the same problems at other news organizations, but argues NPR, as a mission-driven institution, has a greater obligation to fairness.

"I love NPR and feel it's a national trust," Berliner says. "We have great journalists here. If they shed their opinions and did the great journalism they're capable of, this would be a much more interesting and fulfilling organization for our listeners."

A "final warning"

The circumstances surrounding the interview were singular.

Berliner provided me with a copy of the formal rebuke to review. NPR did not confirm or comment upon his suspension for this article.

In presenting Berliner's suspension Thursday afternoon, the organization told the editor he had failed to secure its approval for outside work for other news outlets, as is required of NPR journalists. It called the letter a "final warning," saying Berliner would be fired if he violated NPR's policy again. Berliner is a dues-paying member of NPR's newsroom union but says he is not appealing the punishment.

The Free Press is a site that has become a haven for journalists who believe that mainstream media outlets have become too liberal. In addition to his essay, Berliner appeared in an episode of its podcast Honestly with Bari Weiss.

A few hours after the essay appeared online, NPR chief business editor Pallavi Gogoi reminded Berliner of the requirement that he secure approval before appearing in outside press, according to a copy of the note provided by Berliner.

In its formal rebuke, NPR did not cite Berliner's appearance on Chris Cuomo's NewsNation program last Tuesday night, for which NPR gave him the green light. (NPR's chief communications officer told Berliner to focus on his own experience and not share proprietary information.) The NPR letter also did not cite his remarks to The New York Times , which ran its article mid-afternoon Thursday, shortly before the reprimand was sent. Berliner says he did not seek approval before talking with the Times .

NPR defends its journalism after senior editor says it has lost the public's trust

NPR defends its journalism after senior editor says it has lost the public's trust

Berliner says he did not get permission from NPR to speak with me for this story but that he was not worried about the consequences: "Talking to an NPR journalist and being fired for that would be extraordinary, I think."

Berliner is a member of NPR's business desk, as am I, and he has helped to edit many of my stories. He had no involvement in the preparation of this article and did not see it before it was posted publicly.

In rebuking Berliner, NPR said he had also publicly released proprietary information about audience demographics, which it considers confidential. He said those figures "were essentially marketing material. If they had been really good, they probably would have distributed them and sent them out to the world."

Feelings of anger and betrayal inside the newsroom

His essay and subsequent public remarks stirred deep anger and dismay within NPR. Colleagues contend Berliner cherry-picked examples to fit his arguments and challenge the accuracy of his accounts. They also note he did not seek comment from the journalists involved in the work he cited.

Morning Edition host Michel Martin told me some colleagues at the network share Berliner's concerns that coverage is frequently presented through an ideological or idealistic prism that can alienate listeners.

"The way to address that is through training and mentorship," says Martin, herself a veteran of nearly two decades at the network who has also reported for The Wall Street Journal and ABC News. "It's not by blowing the place up, by trashing your colleagues, in full view of people who don't really care about it anyway."

Several NPR journalists told me they are no longer willing to work with Berliner as they no longer have confidence that he will keep private their internal musings about stories as they work through coverage.

"Newsrooms run on trust," NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben tweeted last week, without mentioning Berliner by name. "If you violate everyone's trust by going to another outlet and sh--ing on your colleagues (while doing a bad job journalistically, for that matter), I don't know how you do your job now."

Berliner rejected that critique, saying nothing in his essay or subsequent remarks betrayed private observations or arguments about coverage.

Other newsrooms are also grappling with questions over news judgment and confidentiality. On Monday, New York Times Executive Editor Joseph Kahn announced to his staff that the newspaper's inquiry into who leaked internal dissent over a planned episode of its podcast The Daily to another news outlet proved inconclusive. The episode was to focus on a December report on the use of sexual assault as part of the Hamas attack on Israel in October. Audio staffers aired doubts over how well the reporting stood up to scrutiny.

"We work together with trust and collegiality everyday on everything we produce, and I have every expectation that this incident will prove to be a singular exception to an important rule," Kahn wrote to Times staffers.

At NPR, some of Berliner's colleagues have weighed in online against his claim that the network has focused on diversifying its workforce without a concomitant commitment to diversity of viewpoint. Recently retired Chief Executive John Lansing has referred to this pursuit of diversity within NPR's workforce as its " North Star ," a moral imperative and chief business strategy.

In his essay, Berliner tagged the strategy as a failure, citing the drop in NPR's broadcast audiences and its struggle to attract more Black and Latino listeners in particular.

"During most of my tenure here, an open-minded, curious culture prevailed. We were nerdy, but not knee-jerk, activist, or scolding," Berliner writes. "In recent years, however, that has changed."

Berliner writes, "For NPR, which purports to consider all things, it's devastating both for its journalism and its business model."

NPR investigative reporter Chiara Eisner wrote in a comment for this story: "Minorities do not all think the same and do not report the same. Good reporters and editors should know that by now. It's embarrassing to me as a reporter at NPR that a senior editor here missed that point in 2024."

Some colleagues drafted a letter to Maher and NPR's chief news executive, Edith Chapin, seeking greater clarity on NPR's standards for its coverage and the behavior of its journalists — clearly pointed at Berliner.

A plan for "healthy discussion"

On Friday, CEO Maher stood up for the network's mission and the journalism, taking issue with Berliner's critique, though never mentioning him by name. Among her chief issues, she said Berliner's essay offered "a criticism of our people on the basis of who we are."

Berliner took great exception to that, saying she had denigrated him. He said that he supported diversifying NPR's workforce to look more like the U.S. population at large. She did not address that in a subsequent private exchange he shared with me for this story. (An NPR spokesperson declined further comment.)

Late Monday afternoon, Chapin announced to the newsroom that Executive Editor Eva Rodriguez would lead monthly meetings to review coverage.

"Among the questions we'll ask of ourselves each month: Did we capture the diversity of this country — racial, ethnic, religious, economic, political geographic, etc — in all of its complexity and in a way that helped listeners and readers recognize themselves and their communities?" Chapin wrote in the memo. "Did we offer coverage that helped them understand — even if just a bit better — those neighbors with whom they share little in common?"

Berliner said he welcomed the announcement but would withhold judgment until those meetings played out.

In a text for this story, Chapin said such sessions had been discussed since Lansing unified the news and programming divisions under her acting leadership last year.

"Now seemed [the] time to deliver if we were going to do it," Chapin said. "Healthy discussion is something we need more of."

Disclosure: This story was reported and written by NPR Media Correspondent David Folkenflik and edited by Deputy Business Editor Emily Kopp and Managing Editor Gerry Holmes. Under NPR's protocol for reporting on itself, no NPR corporate official or news executive reviewed this story before it was posted publicly.

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