In medieval times a man might have his hand cut off for stealing. Mutilation and branding were common punishments in Medieval Europe. The two men crucified alongside Jesus Christ were common thieves. The Catholic Church systematically used torture: Pope Innocent the Third is credited as saying “Anyone who attempts to construe a personal view of God which conflicts with Church dogma must be burned without pity.”
Ruthless punishment is not just a matter of ancient history; runaway slaves were whipped in the American South up until the end of slavery after the Civil War in 1865. Totalitarian regimes in the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Cambodia and elsewhere routinely used torture and execution to enforce their will, as does North Korea and a number of other regimes up to this day. Singapore, a generally well run city-state, uses the death penalty to punish drug importers. Americans continue to hotly debate the use of torture, and what constitutes torture, in the fight against terrorism, particularly as regarding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.