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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


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    1. 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

    2. 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

    3. 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.

    4. 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

    5. Deterrence research (continued) • Until recently, little research • Deterrence assumed to be true • Two types of research • objective measure research • perceptual research

    6. 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

    7. 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

    8. 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

    9. 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.

    10. Conclusions • 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

    11. 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

    12. Perceptual research (continued) • Whether individuals are deterred depends on individual characteristics: • moral development • gender • social class • impulsivity • thrill-seeking/risk taking

    13. Other deterrents • Informal sanctions • disapproval of family and peers • guilt • a moral code • loss of reputation • loss of material goods

    14. 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?

    15. 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

    16. 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”

    17. 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

    18. 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