Operant conditioning has taught us that behavior can be controlled by its consequences. This means that causing discomfort (punishment) can be used to extinguish an undesirable behavior. If we apply this to criminal behavior, then it would be logical to assume that punishment for breaking the law will reduce criminal behavior. This notion has led to research to facilitate the understanding of how to effectively reduce the commission of crimes.
The beginnings of the Deterrence Theory of Punishment may be found in the early works of Thomas Hobbes, Cesare Becarria, and Jeremy Bentham. Hobbs, Beccaria, and Bentham provided the foundation for modern deterrence theory in criminology (Mutchnick, Martin, Aus...
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... an individual’s decision to commit murder.
Following this line of thought, Paul Horton and Gerald Leslie had this to say about the relationship between punishment and crime:
“The misplaced faith that punishment may rest upon the unrealistic assumption that people consciously decide whether to be criminal – that they consider a criminal career, rationally balance its dangers against its rewards and arrive at a decision based upon such pleasure-pain calculation. It supposedly follows that if the pain element is increased by sever punishments, people will turn from crime to righteousness. A little reflection reveals the absurdity of this notion (Sutherland, Cressey, Luckenbill 2011).”
Legal sanctions cannot deter criminal behavior unless people understand them. Other research has also found that studies report a weak relationship between the severity of the punishment
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