As we make observances of the crimes and the crime rate in the United States, we must be somewhat concerned about our well-being as well as our loved ones’. How do we approach crime with the necessary actions in order to sustain a livable environment? Akers, Sellers, and Jennings set out to discuss each criminological theory that has or is being used in order to combat crime and understand criminal behavior. After being introduced to what makes a good theory, it is now time to apply what we have learned in the previous chapter to analyze the theories set forth in the upcoming chapters. In chapter two we are presented with three theories: deterrence, rational choice, and routine activities.
I will discuss each theory’s intellectual origins, key concepts, basic argument, empirical validity, and policy implications. The first theory discussed in this chapter is the classical or deterrence theory. This theory was founded by Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham. “Both were utilitarian social philosophers who were primarily concerned with legal and penal reform rather than with formulating an explanation of criminal behavior”. Beccaria and Bentham paved the way for the United States Constitution to be developed the way it is. The importance of the deterrence theory is certainty celerity, and severity of legal punishment. The classical or deterrence theory focuses on the fact that people have free will. In my logic and ethics class in undergrad, we talked about the ability and power of an individual’s free will. Free will allows people to do what they want to do at the end of the day. Criminals make their decision based on how severe the punishment will be if they are caught. If they feel as if the punishment is not bad then they will commit the crime.
On the contrary, if the punishment is too bad then they will not engage in the crime. In the section of “Severity and Fitting the Punishment to the Crime” it discusses how the punishment of a crime must be proportional to the crime. “It meant that the punishment must be tailored to be only severe enough to overcome the gain offered by crime”. A person should be able to receive the appropriate consequence based on the severity of the crime. For instance, someone being caught with a .5 gram of weed should not receive fifteen (15) years in prison. It is irrational. Dylan Ruff killed nine African-Americans in Charleston, South Carolina is receiving the death penalty, now that is sensible. A father killing his wife and kids because he assumed the wife was choking one of the children should receive life in prison without parole. The deterrence theory also focuses on certainty and celerity of punishment. Celerity of punishment deals with how fast the criminal is punished. When a punishment is mandated right after the crime has been committed, it is more effective to deter the individual the next time he or she thinks about committing crime.
Certainty of punishment refers to how sure a person is about the possible outcome of the crime if they are caught. As I mentioned previously, if a person feels as if the punishment is too severe they are less likely to commit that crime. For example, people drive me crazy when they drive slowly and I do want to run them off the road. However, I do not, because of the chances of being me the cause of a fatal accident are high, and the fact that if that person dies I will have a list of charges that individually carries a higher sentence for each. So instead, I just nicely pass them. Here I have demonstrated certainty of punishment. Certainty and celerity of a punishment serves as a deterrence mechanism both specific and generally. Specific deterrence refrains offenders from committing a crime because of their prior experience with the consequences. Specific deterrence aims for a particular person. My parents took away my cell phone, and limited my freedom to just school, and church.
They took this route of punishment, because my behavior had become immune to whippings. When they took away my phone, they took away my life; therefore once I was off punishment I had altered my behavior and knew not to get in trouble. I knew that if I did, I would not have my cell phone. General deterrence hinders law-abiding citizens from committing crime based on the punishment offenders have received. If the general population sees what killing someone gets you, they are less likely to commit a non-reason homicide. If an offender has received forty (40) years in prison for trafficking drugs other people will be less likely to commit drug trafficking. My brother never got in trouble in school or at home. He observed the punishment me and my sister received when we did anything that were not acceptable by parents.
This caused a general deterrence for my brother because he did not want to lose his privileges so he made sure he did not get into any trouble. Akers, Sellers, ; Jennings propose a question “Do Criminal Sanctions Deter?” In this section they talk about the basic argument of the deterrence theory. The argument of this theory is that when you have punishment set in place as consequences for certain crimes, this creates deterrence. The empirical validity of the deterrence theory is weak. There are not a strong body of research to support the deterrence theory. When looking deeper into this section we find that deterrence does not always work. Yes it does deter a large group of people, but it does not deter the majority. I do not want to be wearing an orange jumpsuit twenty-four seven. I do not want to be told when I can do stuff, and when I cannot. I do not want my two year old son to come visit me in jail or prison.
This deters me from committing crime. Policy implications of the deterrence theory is tough criminal justice policies and programs. Implementing tough criminal justice policies and programs, the criminal justice system has taken necessary measures in order to effectively deter citizens from committing crime. Having a harsh punishment makes going to jail or to prison distasteful. Some people may not want to be separated from their families. Others may not want to jeopardize their reputation. “Fear of arrest may be a deterrent, not only because of the negative experience of the arrest itself but because of other negative consequences evoked by the arrest”. Once deterrence becomes a factor in whether or not a person commits crime, another factor comes into play. “Rational choice theory is based on the expected utility principle in economic theory” This theory was founded by Beccaria, but expanded on by Derek Cornish, and Ronald Clarke in 1986. This theory focuses on the probability of someone committing a crime based on the following: punishment of the crime, and the chances of being caught. If a person feels that the outcomes of a committing a crime outweighs the bad, then they will act.
If it does not outweigh the bad, then the likelihood of them committing the crime is slim to none. They are measuring the rewards or costs of committing the crime as well as the utility of crime. When an offender carefully thinks about his or her action they are using TRDM. Thoughtfully Reflective Decision Making takes place when an offender is doing all necessary research on whether or not they should commit a particular crime. This allows for them to make sure that the crime and consequence is worth it. The basic argument of this theory is that the decision to break the law happens when they have rationally thought about the pros and cons of the crime.
The empirical validity of this theory is weak. There is not enough sizeable evidence, and there is no correlation between pure rational choice and crime. “Furthermore, the rational choice models that have been supported by research evidence do not stick strictly with measures of expected utility”. Rational Choice and Deterrence theories (both micro-level theories of crime) are similar to each other, which causes rational choice theory to have the same policy implications as the deterrence theory. The third theory discussed in chapter two is routine activities theory. “Crime opportunity theories such as routine activities theory identify crime generating situations….” Routine activities theory was established by Marcus Felson and Lawrence Cohen. The key concepts are motivated offenders, vulnerable targets, and guardians.
The overall argument is that when a person’s schedule is known, it allows more opportunity for someone to commit a crime. Offenders commit crime because of how easy committing the crime is. For example, if a young woman is by herself, and unaware of her surroundings, a robber, rapist, or killer, will be able to do what he or she wants to the individual based on their vulnerability. When I started driving late at night from work, my parents always told me to take a different way home each day. This was because anyone could be watching me and my daily routine. If they know that I take the same way home each day it is easier for them to follow you home and figure out where you live and do whatever ill intentions they have. This theory is a macro-level explanation of criminal behavior. If there was a change in motivated offenders, targets, or guardian then there would be a change in crime rates. The empirical validity of this theory is weak as well. It has not had enough testing done to correlate routine activities to crime. The policy implications of this theory is to make people aware of their surroundings, and switching up their routine.
A Reconceptualization of General and Specific Deterrence Summary A Reconceptualization of General and Specific Deterrence explores the issues at hand with the deterrence theory and offers a reconceptualization theory of the general and specific deterrence. This article strongly corresponds to our text reading of Akers, Sellers and Jennings. Stafford and Warr makes strong arguments about how the deterrent researchers are not showing enough empirical evidence to represent the relationship between deterrence and crime. Specific deterrence is punishment for a specific person in order to refrain that individual from committing future crime.
Whereas general deterrence is punishments used to affect a population. Stafford and War argue that distinction between the two types of deterrence is not logical and is not effective in regards to the use of deterrence (1993). In the section of Distinguishing General and Specific Deterrence the authors are making their audience aware about the differences between the two deterrence types. In addressing general deterrence there are two kinds of people who have never done anything to receive criminal consequences, the criminal pros, and the law-abiding citizens. The criminal pros are the ones who have committed crimes and know the ins and outs about not getting caught. It almost like the show “How to Get Away with Murder”, they do it so much it becomes natural to them on how not to get caught.
It is like a sixth sense. Then you have those who has never committed a crime, they go the speed limit, they do not j-walk, etc. Thus when referring to deterrence mechanisms to the first type of people, they are not concerned with punishment. Their only concern is not being caught. With the chances of not being caught increasing each time they commit a crime and gets away with it, increases their repetitive actions. The variables of severity and certainty come into play. “Perceptions of certainty should be affected more strongly by punishment avoidance, because getting away with a crime provides little information about the legal consequences of being caught”. These types of people are “immune” (at least that is what they think) to punishment. After telling the problems with the general idea of the two deterrence, the authors proposed reconceptualization is “the distinction between the two types of deterrence be limited contrasting kinds of experience with legal punishment”.
With this proposed reconceptualization, general deterrence will refer to the indirect experience and specific deterrence will focus on direct experience of punishment. There are advantages to the proposed concept: 1) both deterrence can be used amongst a variety of people, 2) punishment avoidance is not the same as direct punishment, 3) it goes hand in hand with the learning theory. Stafford and Warr emphasizes that the rate of crime will be a factor of both deterrence (1993). However, this proposed reconceptualization offer little help if it cannot be applied effectively. It is hard to show empirical validity of this reconceptualization because you have to find an effective way to execute it. State Crime Theory and Control Summary In the chapter ” State Crime Theory and Control” the authors Dawn Rothe and David Zauzlarich presents to their readers the explanations of state crime and the policy implementations associated with public policy and social control. Pages 179-190 the authors put their attention on controls and constraints. This is due to the fact that they more versatile and can help combat and reduce crime. Controls are “operationalized as complete blockages to an act, as in the form of general or specific deterrence…” Controls are examined on different levels.
Of the different levels, constraints are the strongest on the international level. On the international level, controls serves as “catalyst” that aims to address crime. The basic argument that this chapter is trying to achieve is that in order to have an effective deterrence policy we must take into account certain factors that could either be a success or a failure. Having strong international level constraints suggest ways for countries to decrease their crime rate by implementing the same programs or policies that they have. Of course there are downfalls to this but the only way to improve is by effectively figuring out how to fix the problems. All three text gives us insights on how we should apply deterrents in order to decrease crime. They reveal to us that deterrence only work for certain people. The deterrence and rational choice theories both relate because it gives us a deeper meaning about criminal behavior of individuals. Using the ideas of each text we are closer to figuring out ways to alter criminals’ behavior and thought process.