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Classical theory. Beccaria: On crime and Punishment (1764) Justice was chaotic, corrupt; governments were monarchies (divine right of kings) Essay was a protest and a blueprint for government and justice

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Classical theory

  • Beccaria: On crime and Punishment (1764)

  • Justice was chaotic, corrupt; governments were monarchies (divine right of kings)

  • Essay was a protest and a blueprint for government and justice

  • Advocated: social contract doctrine and utilitarianism, rationality of man, and the pleasure/pain principle

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Classical (continued)

  • He advocated the need for:

  • Clear criminal laws

  • Swift and certain punishment

  • A scale of crimes and punishment

  • Punishments should be no more severe than necessary, or they will not be perceived as just, and the people would revolt

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Classical theory (continued)

  • People are rational. If they know that punishment is swift, certain, just, and sufficiently severe, they will decide to obey rather than violate the law.

  • The crime would not be worth the punishment. Choices can be controlled by fear of punishment.

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Deterrence research

  • Deterrence: a legal threat designed to prevent/control criminal behavior

  • Assumes that people are rational, want the goods and services crime provides, and will commit crime if they do not fear being caught and punished

  • An inverse relationship should exist between crime and certainty, swiftness and severity of punishment

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Deterrence research (continued)

  • Until recently, little research

  • Deterrence assumed to be true

  • Two types of research

    • objective measure research

    • perceptual research

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Objective measure research

  • Compare arrest, conviction and sentencing data

  • If these numbers increase, crime should decrease--people should be deterred

  • Some research support

  • However, methodological problems occur

    • measurement problems

    • impossibility of controlling other factors

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Objective measures

  • Increased patrol: Kansas City Patrol Experiment--no effect

  • Aggressive crackdown seem to have an initial effect, I.e., tough drunk driving laws, “speed traps” Tends to dissipate over time if the risk of being caught is small

  • New York subway experiment

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Deterrence and the death penalty

  • Since capital punishment is the most severe, it should have a deterrent effect

  • Sellin examined contiguous states with and without the death penalty, and did not find an effect

  • comparative studies--homicide rates declined in over half of countries when they abolished the death penalty

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Death penalty continued

  • Effect of public execution: short-term decline, then no effect

  • A study by Ehrlich claimed a deterrent effect, but no other research has found support for his conclusions

  • Murder might not be a good example for showing a deterrent effect, as it often is not a rational act.

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  • Little is known about the effects of swiftness of punishment

  • Certainty of apprehension (or the perception of certainty) has the most impact

  • Severity has no effect unless certainty of punishment is increased

  • Inability to catch offenders, rather than sentencing, is the weak point of the CJS

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Perceptual Research

  • Survey technique: ask people if they believe they will be caught, compare to their self-report of offending

  • Law-abiding people believe they will get caught; criminals estimate the odds are much lower

  • Panel studies: those who commit crimes lower their estimates--experiential effect

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Perceptual research (continued)

  • Whether individuals are deterred depends on individual characteristics:

  • moral development

  • gender

  • social class

  • impulsivity

  • thrill-seeking/risk taking

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Other deterrents

  • Informal sanctions

  • disapproval of family and peers

  • guilt

  • a moral code

  • loss of reputation

  • loss of material goods

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Informal deterrents (continued)

  • Formal deterrents ranked highest

  • For more serious crimes, informal deterrents also important

  • For less serious crimes, formal deterrents are the most important

  • Informal deterrents thought to be the most important for law-abiding people

  • If there were no punishment, would you commit crimes?

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Rational choice

  • Ask criminals about their choices

  • do they assess: risk of apprehension, seriousness of punishment, value of the criminal enterprise

  • Would-be offenders might react to the characteristics of the particular situation in deciding whether to commit a crime

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Rational choice (continued)

  • Given enough opportunity, anyone might commit a crime if motivated

  • Some crimes obviously have a rational basis

  • Professional burglars

  • Broken windows concept

  • Such crime might be discouraged

  • “Target hardening”

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Crime prevention

  • Home security systems

  • Dead-bolt locks and steel doors

  • High intensity street lighting

  • Neighborhood watch

  • Risks and effort should outweigh the potential benefits

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Why deterrence is limited

  • Many crimes may be impulsive, or committed under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Such criminal might not be rational.

  • Crimes committed by those who have nothing to lose

  • We cannot detect many crimes without a much more extensive surveillance system