The most controversial manifestation of punitive punishments must surely be the exposing of convicted paedophiles’ names and addresses on the sex offenders’ register One of the principal reasons for the controversy of such humiliating punishments can be identified as being the fear of so-called ‘vigilante justice’. Particularly where sex offenders are involved (reflecting the hugely emotive nature of such crimes), there have been numerous cases of attacks on the homes and persons of such offenders, occasionally based upon a mistaken identity. The problems here are obvious; leaving mistaken identity aside, if punishment is taken out of the state’s hands, there is little or no way of controlling it.
A second major development in the culture of state punishment has been the increasing importance of policies aimed at reducing fear amongst the population, as much as punishing offenders. This reflects the growing problem of fear of crime within today’s communities. Where once such fear only afflicted a small demographic in certain social and economic groups and areas, now it is seen as a pervasive problem for all. This has had a direct effect on the discourse of penal policy, as Garland makes clear: ‘Accompanying these projected images [of unruly youth, and dangerous predators amongst others], and in rhetorical response to them, the new discourse of crime policy consistently invokes and angry public, tired of living in fear, demanding strong measures of punishment and protection.’ While this has not necessarily changed the functions of state punishment, it has certainly affected the sentiment accompanying penal policies, and has aggravated the need for more punitive punishments.