Does the Perceived Risk of Punishment Deter Criminally Prone Individuals - Rational Choice, Self-Control and Crime.Pdf

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Does the Perceived Risk of Punishment Deter Criminally Prone Individuals? Rational Choice, Self-Control, and Crime Bradley R. E. Wright, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie E. Moffitt and Ray Paternoster Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 2004 41: 180 DOI: 10.1177/0022427803260263 The online version of this article can be found at: http://jrc.sagepub.com/content/41/2/180

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Wright et al. JOURNAL / CRIMINALLY ARTICLE OF RESEARCH PRONE INDIVIDUALS 10.1177/0022427803260263 IN CRIME AND DELINQUENCY

DOES THE PERCEIVED RISK OF PUNISHMENT DETER CRIMINALLY PRONE INDIVIDUALS? RATIONAL CHOICE, SELF-CONTROL, AND CRIME BRADLEY R. E. WRIGHT AVSHALOM CASPI TERRIE E. MOFFITT RAY PATERNOSTER

Society’s efforts to deter crime with punishment may be ineffective because those individuals most prone to commit crime often act impulsively, with little thought for the future, and so they may be unmoved by the threat of later punishment. Deterrence messages they receive, therefore, may fall on deaf ears. This article examines this issue by testing the relationship between criminal propensity, perceived risks and costs of punishment, and criminal behavior. The authors analyzed data from the Dunedin (New Zealand) Study, a longitudinal study of individuals from birth through age 26 (N = 1,002). They found that in fact, deterrence perceptions had their greatest impact on criminally prone study members. Keywords: deterrence theory; criminal propensity

Society controls its members by threatening punishments, both formal, such as arrest and imprisonment, and informal, such as social disapproval and withholding of resources. Policymakers, as well as the general public, have widely accepted the punishment-as-deterrence doctrine (Liska and Messner 1999), and so the punishment of criminals, more than other, positive We thank the Dunedin Study members, their parents, teachers, and peer informants, Dunedin Unit Director Richie Poulton, and Study founder Phil Silva. We thank HonaLee Harrington and Colin Baier for research assistance. The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit is supported by the New Zealand Health Research Council. This research received support from the National Consortium on Violence Research (NCOVR), which is supported under grant #SBR 9513040 from the National Science Foundation, from the William Freeman Vilas Trust at the University of Wisconsin, from US-NIMH grants MH45070, MH49414, from the William T. Grant Foundation, and from Air New Zealand. JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN CRIME AND DELINQUENCY, Vol. 41 No. 2, May 2004 180-213 DOI: 10.1177/0022427803260263 © 2004 Sage Publications

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interventions is politically viable under the rubric of “getting tough on crime.” Given society’s considerable faith in, and resources spent on, punishing wrong-doers, we have a vested interest in knowing whether in fact threatened punishments deter criminal behavior, and so social scientists have long studied punishment as deterrence (e.g., Beccaria 1963; Becker 1968; Bentham 1948; Piliavin et al. 1986). Of particular significance is the question, Does the threat of punishment differ according to a person’s motivation or propensity to commit crime? There are three basic,...
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