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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
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
classical continued
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
classical theory continued
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.
deterrence research
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
deterrence research continued
Deterrence research (continued)
  • Until recently, little research
  • Deterrence assumed to be true
  • Two types of research
    • objective measure research
    • perceptual research
objective measure research
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
objective measures
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
deterrence and the death penalty
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
death penalty continued
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.
  • 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
perceptual research
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
perceptual research continued
Perceptual research (continued)
  • Whether individuals are deterred depends on individual characteristics:
  • moral development
  • gender
  • social class
  • impulsivity
  • thrill-seeking/risk taking
other deterrents
Other deterrents
  • Informal sanctions
  • disapproval of family and peers
  • guilt
  • a moral code
  • loss of reputation
  • loss of material goods
informal deterrents continued
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?
rational choice
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
rational choice continued
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”
crime prevention
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
why deterrence is limited
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