Rational Choice theory

Topics: Crime, Rational choice theory, Insanity defense Pages: 7 (1379 words) Published: November 17, 2014

Jacob Micks

10/14/2013
Criminology CJ2000011

Topic:
Rational Choice Theory

Rational Choice Theory
With the exception of a person who has a severe mental disability, every human thinks and weighs out the benefits and the consequences of a crime they are about to commit. People do not get as much credit for committing a crime as they should and this can result in getting a lesser punishment.

Rational choice theory states that law violating behavior is the result of carful thought and planning. This theory has been used by many scientists to try and get a better understanding on why people make the choices they make. The main concept of the theory of rational choice was brought up by a man named Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham which influenced the criminal justice system greatly giving scientists a new way to look at the criminal mind. Beccaria mainly looked at rational choice as a free will in a way; Ones ability to make choices based on certain factors. Beccaria’s original concept was declined by the end of the 19th century. Later in the 1960’s a man named Gary Becker said that other that people with a severe mental illness, an individual makes a decision by looking at the good and the bad possible in the outcome of a decision. Rational choice theory denies any type of reasoning for an action other than that people weigh out possible outcome. The theory states that any and all law violating behavior should be looked at as an individual that makes a decision based on their situational factors such as valuable items, money or living necessities. Crime is directly related with the choice of an individual. Rational choice theory is currently a strong bias in the decision making process in the court system of the United States. When a severe crime is committed most investigators and lawyers tend to look for a medical answer. Now why is it that they’re not looking at what they did and understand that it wasn’t just a medical issue generating the outcome by itself? Scientists will look into what could physically or psychologically cause an individual to commit such a crime. Lawyers don’t want to actually find out what the medical condition is to help the criminal; they want to find an excuse that will make a judge really think about giving the criminal a lesser punishment. If a lawyer gets paid based on their defendants punishment being lesser they will find even the slightest excuse possible for why they did what they did.

Let’s look back to the murder trial in 1979 where Dan White, a former police officer, was accused of murdering two people. In court the defense claimed that White was suffering from a mental lapse brought on by a series of events in his life that left him temporarily insane. They also related the fact that he had been eating junk food to the murders saying that he had diminished capacity. When they claimed it was due to diminished capacity they said that he could not think critically due to the junk food. With this defense he actually got a lesser offense. He was initially accused of murder but only got manslaughter. This completely takes away the fact that he was using his own critical thinking to commit this murder. The court actually believed that he was not in control of the situation.

These days when someone commits a well-planned and though out crime such as a mass murder or a shooting, the only thing the individual would have to do in court is plead insanity and they get a lesser sentence which takes away the deterrence of punishment. If you look into the shooter in Aurora, Colorado you can see exactly how well he planned out this mass murder. The gunman bought mass amounts of ammunition online and in stores. He obtained tear gas, masks, and all necessary items to commit a mass murder. He had his apartment wired to kill any law enforcement or investigators who entered. This was a well-planned murder where he had a specific location, at a specific...


Cited: Articles:
Draper, E. (n.d.). Theater shooting suspect 's computer used to search "rational insanity" - The Denver Post.Colorado Breaking News, Sports, Weather, Traffic, Jobs - The Denver Post. Retrieved October 15, 2013, from http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_24282613/theater-shooting-suspect-did-computer-searches-rational-insanity
Gado, M. (n.d.). The Insanity Defense — Twinkies as a Defense — Crime Library on truTV.com. Crime Library. Retrieved October 15, 2013, from http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_
Books:
Siegel, L. J. (2010). Criminology: the core (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.
Eriksson, L. (2011). Rational choice theory: potential and limits. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Samenow, S. E. (1984). Inside the criminal mind. New York: Times Books.
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