"The moment God's justice is denied, and there is no longer any belief in a moral world order that is elevated far above human beings, the right and essential character of punishment immediately collapses as well, even when the word "justice" is still retained."
H. Bavinck,Reformed Dogmatics,III,163
Of course, I'm not sure I would agree with Bavinck's practical understanding of civil law and order.
There can be no such thing as proper punishment under human judicial systems. I think prisons are a social and political problem for this very reason... we are told they exist for the purposes of punishment deterent and rehabilitation, when the only good reason for prisons is to keep dangerous people safely under control.
But there is no question that Bavinck's thinking is a wonderful antidote to the empty god-less thinking that has engulfed the Western developed nations.