On Crimes and Punishments  

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Dei delitti e delle pene (English: "On Crimes and Punishments") is a seminal treatise on legal reform written by the Italian philosopher and thinker Cesare Beccaria between 1763 and 1764.

The essays proposed many reforms for the criminal justice system, including prompt administration of clearly prescribed and consistent punishments, well-publicised laws made by the legislature rather than individual courts or judges, the abolition of torture in prisons and the use of the penal system to deter would-be offenders, rather than simply punishing those convicted. It is also one of the earlier, and most famous, works against death penalty. The main reason put forward against that measure is that the State, by putting people to death, was committing a crime to punish another one. It also advocated a substantial difference between crime and sin, and was for this reason put in the List of Banished Books by the Catholic Church in 1766. On Crimes and Punishments is widely considered one of the founding texts of Classical Criminology.


Beccaria cited Montesquieu who stated that "every punishment which does not arise from absolute necessity is tyrannical."

Regarding the "Proportion between Crimes and Punishment", Beccaria stated that:

'Crimes of every kind should be less frequent, in proportion to the evil they produce to society.
"If an equal punishment be ordained for two crimes that injure society in different degrees, there is nothing to deter men from committing the greater as often as it is attended with greater advantage."

These principles influencing thinking on criminal justice and punishment of offenders, leading to reforms in Europe, especially in France and at the court of Catherine II of Russia. The judiciary reform advocated by Beccaria also led to the abolition of death punishment in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, the first Italian state taking this measure in the whole world.

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