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Chapter FourThe Development of Rational Choice Theory
Criminology 9th edition
Larry J. Siegel
© 2003 Wadsworth Publishing Co.
The basis of this perspective over time has dealt with four key relationships:
Do you think that a criminal act
is a matter of “rational choice?”
In order for behavior to be rational -
must this behavior be learned first?
behavior. Derived from
the notion of free-will.
can be controlled
by the fear of
The more severe, certain and swift
the punishment, the greater its ability
to control criminal behavior.
Punishment must also be proportional
to the crime.
When it cannot prevent a crime, to convince the offender to commit a less serious one.
To prevent all
To prevent a crime
as cheaply as possible.
To ensure that a criminal
uses no more force than
Beccaria – Classical TheorylRational Choice----------------------------------------------------Bentham – Classical TheorylUtilitarianism-----------------------------------------------------8th Amendment – U.S. ConstitutionlCruel and Unusual Punishment
Criminals tend to
overestimate the money they receive
Criminals believe there
is no choice, legitimate
work is not available.
Criminals are overly
optimistic about getting
away with each
Research indicates that crime
pays relatively little.
If crime pays relatively little,
why are there so many criminals?
What is the distinction between
crime and criminality?
Learning and experience,
type of crime, time and place, and specific crime target
i.e., legal opportunity
vs. illegal profit/benefit
Criminals structure their career
when they rationally choose:
Are there different
What can a criminal “gain”
from criminal activity?
Increasing Perceived Effort
1. Target hardening
2. Access control
3. Deflecting offenders
4. Controlling facilitators
Increasing Perceived Risks
5. Entry / exit screening
6. Formal surveillance
7. Surveillance by employees
8. Natural surveillance
Reducing Anticipated Rewards
9. Target removal
10. Identifying property
11. Reducing temptation
12. Denying benefits
Inducing Guilt or Shame
13. Rule setting
14. Strengthening moral condemnation
15. Controlling disinhibitors
16. Facilitating compliance
The punishment philosophy that says punishment’s aim is to
prevent future offenses
by setting an example
for both the offender and others;
i.e., specific and general.
The version of deterrence that seeks to prevent crime by using punishment to show others who are considering a criminal act that they will suffer painful consequences if they commit that act.
Concepts: certainty, severity (capital punishment), informal sanctions, and shame.
What do these studies show?
The punishment philosophy that says punishment’s aim is to prevent an offender’s freedom to move about.
Traditionally, this was accomplished by placing the offender in prison, but recent technology suggests that incapacitation might also be achieved with tools like electronic monitoring.
What is the difference between
traditional incapacitation and
“selective incapacitation” methods?
Have they been successful
in controlling crime rates?
Under this version of incapacitation, imprisonment is used only for a select group of especially dangerous repeat offenders whose freedom of movement must be restricted to protect society.
Example: “Three Strikes and You’re Out Policies”
How has the just desert model
influenced justice policy?
What are some characteristics of the
just deserts theoretical model?
Are criminals rational decision makers or,
are they motivated by
uncontrollable psychological and emotional drives?
If you were caught by police while shoplifting,
which would you be more afraid of:
receiving criminal punishment
or, having to face your friends or relatives and experience shame and embarrassment? Explain.