Crime and Deterrence Effectiveness

Topics: Crime, Criminology, Criminal law Pages: 6 (2177 words) Published: December 5, 2012
The deterrence theory can be dated back to the early 1600’s, with combined research from Thomas Hobbes, Cesare Beccaria, and Jeremy Bentham. The information obtained by these theorists did not coincide with the current European legal practices, which stated other reasons for crime control. Deterrence is when a person fears punishment therefore they do not commit crime. Hobbes argued that punishment for a crime must be greater than the benefits of committing the crime in order for an individual to be deterred. Both Beccaria and Bentham did most of their research on pleasure and pain. For deterrence to work, the pleasure of not committing the crime must outweigh the pain that the crime may cause. “If there was one clear principle of the classical school of criminology it was that criminal punishment should be certain, swift, and proportionately severe” (Paternoster &Bachman, 2001, p.13-14). Of the three, certainty is the most important. The two types of deterrence are general deterrence and specific deterrence, which represents different ways people can be deterred. Deterrence is not very hard to measure but it is difficult to find reasons for deterrence. Socio-economic status, prior convictions, and age are just a few reasons why an individual may avoid crime. Deterrence will continue to be the focus of much criminological research for years to come because deterrence has such a big impact on arrest, conviction, and death penalty rates.

Research of the deterrence theory is vital to the criminal justice system and legislation for various reasons. Crime is always happening and millions of people are employed because there is crime. In every society, there is a set of rules or regulations that the population must abide by or, there will be consequences. Deterrence is the only way to keep people from committing crime. There will never be a zero crime rate, but it can always be reduced. Any reduction in crime is good, for any community. The deterrence theory can help law enforcement and legislators control crime. Administrators should know what deterrence is and who exactly can be deterred. From there, programs and laws should be put in place to keep those people from committing crime. Everyone is not a criminal, but those who are should be the focus of the deterrence theory.

General Deterrence is defined as an objective that prevents the entire population from committing a crime. The main focus of general deterrence is that punishment is a necessary consequence because the risk of getting punished is enough to deter someone from committing a crime. This threat of punishment is directed towards the population at large. Also just the fear of being caught can lead to a person being deterred. “Deterrence and Deterrability”, Bruce Jacobs (2010) takes a deep look into what can keep criminals from committing crime. He addresses the risk sensitivity that many potential criminals may think about before they choose to commit an illegal act (Jacobs, 2010). Some criminals may weight out their options or think about the consequence beforehand but there is no sure way to know that every criminal has this thought process. Jacobs defines deterrence as “process by which would-be offenders calculate risks and rewards prior to offending” and deterrability is “the offender’s capacity and/or willingness to perform this calculation”(Jacobs, 2010, p. 417).

Specific deterrence is defined “as the impact of the actual legal punishment on those who are apprehended”(General Deterrence vs. Specific Deterrence, 2007). Specific deterrence is focused on the experiences of actual offenders. This type of deterrence should keep current offenders from reoffending. The criminal now understands what the future consequences may be if they decide to commit more crime.

The difference between general deterrence and specific deterrence is found in the groups that are being targeted. General deterrence targets the entire...

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