The Deterrence Theory Of Punishment

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Many civilizations have come and gone throughout the history of humankind. While they each had their own unique qualities, they have all shared the need for rules and laws to govern the society. People generally follow the law of the land, but there are always those who will violate the law. To address these law breakers, also known as criminals, society has created varying levels of punishment in an effort to decrease the number of criminal incidents. As stated in the Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment, “Deterrence is the straightforward, common-sense notion that if you do something wrong, you will be punished, and the punishment itself will prevent you from doing that wrong thing again” (Levinson, 2002). It would follow, then, that fear…show more content…
Hobbs, Beccaria, and Bentham provided the foundation for modern deterrence theory in criminology (Mutchnick, Martin, Austin 2009). Those who support Deterrence Theory are of the opinion that the degree of punishment affects an individual’s choice to obey or violate the law. Beccaria held the belief that the certainty of punishment, even if it is mild in application, would deter individuals from committing crimes more so than the fear of a more severe punishment that is combined with the possibility of impunity. (Mutchnick,et al. 2009). He also emphasized that the type of punishment should fit the crime. Another idea he had regarding the intended objects of punishment is essential to modern criminological sciences. The term “specific deterrence” means that the punishment should act as a deterrent for that individual. “General deterrence” means that if the public sees or hears of punishment that was rendered, the knowledge might deter other citizens from committing similar offenses (Levinson 2002). Both of these types of punishment should deter individuals from committing crimes. Jeremy Bentham believed that three aspects of punishment had an impact on deterrence: severity, celerity (speed) and certainty. In Bentham’s view, punishment was most effective when the level of severity fit the crime and that the punishment occurred…show more content…
In the course of their research, they found that some researchers conclude that there is strong evidence of capital punishment on murder, but through further examination of other research, the results varied which has led to uncertainty regarding whether the research is useful for policy makers. They concluded that, “the connection between the theoretical reasoning underlying general deterrence and the regression models typically specified in the literature is tenuous” (Chalfin, et al 2013). Overall, they found that the current research literature that uses panel data to test whether capital punishment is an effective deterrent is not helpful to determine policy or for a judicial audience. They state that this is due to minor issues of appropriate model estimation and also unconvincing causal effects and justification for the model specifications that were
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