Prison Term Policy Recommendation Paper

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Prison Term Policy Recommendation Paper
Sharon T. McKnelly
University of Phoenix
CJA 314
Dean Olson
January 31, 2011

Prison Term Policy Recommendation

In September 2011 there will be a vote on a bill that will double the prison sentence of anyone committing armed robbery, in the state of Wisconsin. The hope of the bill sponsors is that the increased penalties will deter a person from committing armed robbery. Senator McKenzie is aware of popular support for the bill; however, he has asked for my recommendation of whether or not the measure will have any genuine deterrent effect on the rate of incidence. When State Senator McKenzie asked me for my recommendation, I looked for studies on the deterrent effect of lengthy sentences, for armed robbery. The studies I read indicate that, whereas there may be a slight decrease in recidivism, the reduction was not significant enough to indicate that a longer sentence has a significant deterrent effect on those commit armed robbery. The reduction of crime is not directly contributable to the length of sentence. Rather than focus, too intently, on studies of the deterrent effect of stiffer penalties, I believe that it is more important to look at the other factors, which may lead a person to commit an armed robbery.

There are three criminology theories in particular, which may influence a criminal’s decision to commit a violent crime. The biological theory theorizes that some people are ‘born to be bad’; something in his or her biological makeup causes them to behave in a violent fashion. The rational choice theory theorizes that people have free will and, if they commit a violent act it is that they choose to do so. Finally, the psychological theory theorizes that there is a psychological deficiency that leads a person to commit criminal acts.

What is Armed Robbery?
To begin, it is important to understand why armed robbery should receive greater penalties than non-armed robbery. When a person commits armed robbery, he or she is using, or threatening to use, a weapon; the criminal is intimidating the victim into relinquishing his or her money or property (, 2011). When weapons are involved, the danger that someone will be seriously harmed or killed significantly increases. The purpose of the bill, on focusing on armed robbery, is to deter criminals from using violence in the commission of his or her crime. The main question to be considered is; why does a criminal commit an armed robbery? Understanding this question may eventually lead to the genuine determination of how to reduce and eliminate crime; three theories of criminal behavior in particular may hold the key.

Biological Theories
The first theory to consider is the biological theory. Is there something in the fundamental makeup of an individual that may lead him or her to violence and criminal activities? Cesare Lombraso, a 19th century Italian medical doctor, is one of the best known scientific biological theorists. One of his theories posited that, if a person had an underdeveloped brain (e.g. inferior brain) they would be incapable of conforming to the rules and laws of society; because they would be unable to understand why what they are doing is wrong.

Lombroso performed autopsies on numerous criminals, including an Italian soldier who attacked and killed eight of his fellow soldiers, and found deformities of the criminals’ brains. This led him to conclude that a reason for the criminal’s behavior was that the criminal had inferior reasoning capabilities, and therefore, the criminal could not understand the difference between what is right and wrong (Schmalleger, 2009).

A biological theory, by evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin, theorized that because life favors the strongest and best individuals, those who are able to attain power and possessions are most likely to procreate, thus continuing his or her genes. Animals, including humans, are driven to...
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