Rethinking The Deterrence Theory Criminology Essay

With much popular charm, the idea of deterrence has been greatly accepted and recognized, by judges and parliamentarians alike, to be always a central tenet in the concepts of sentencing and the wider penal system in Great britain and Wales. Significantly, section 142(1) of the Criminal Justice Work 2003 expressly enjoins sentencers to consider bill of deterrence as one of the purposes of sentencing when determining what and how severe the appropriate punishment in a given case should be. In practice, as deterrence is extensively perceived by judges, not only in the British and Welsh jurisdiction, but also anywhere else in the common laws world, as, the burkha means through which to afford open public protection, oftentimes regarding adult offenders, precedence has tended to be given to deterrence over other considerations in the interest of the community. Nevertheless, tensions are palpable between deterrence and other sentencing seeks. The question of, for occasion, whether abuse should be a finish in and of itself, or whether it ought to be known as a facilitator of the ideal of offender rehabilitation, remains in leading type of critical discourses into sentencing in the contemporary period. Thus, it has become increasingly essential to deliberate upon the worth and value of deterrence not only in the context of sentencing but also to the purpose of the entire penal system.

Within this framework, the following essay will carry on by first providing a synopsis of the paradigm of deterrence within the broader framework of the modern day penal system. It'll then try to identify and question the moral and empirical underpinnings thereof. Further, it argues that from a criminological or sociological point of view, efforts to attain deterrent effect, in particular where the specific offender can be involved, are in large part counterproductive. Finally, this essay observes, whilst arguing that deterrence as a penological theory is morally and empirically unsound, that it might be impractical to believe that deterrence will be deserted altogether in British sentencing law in the near future. Rather, the greater prudent and acceptable way to approach the matter would be to continue to take notice of the constantly evolving strategy in an period of significant interpersonal, cultural, politics and economical change. In conjunction with other penal ideas, components of deterrence will appear to remain a highly influential sentencing tool.

Exposition of the deterrence theory

'Deterrence' is one of the oldest paradigmss in the history of criminological and jurisprudential inquiry. As soon as in the early eighteen century, the principal purpose of talk about imposed punishments was reported to be the reduced amount of crime, through 'terrifying [potential offenders] into obeying the laws'. The punishment of prison and the deterrence it brings about, by the relinquishment of the fundamental freedoms, were onceived of as the best method of minimizing offending in modern society.

Johnson identifies the verb 'deter' as 'to discourage by terror, to fright from anything'. Deterrence can also be defined as including two separate aspects, depending on class of men and women being directed at, namely individual (specific) deterrence and basic deterrence. Translated into judicial terms in the precise framework of sentencing, a Hong Kong judge, HHJ Ching Y Wong SC, drew the differentiation thus

A deterrent word may maintain personam [that is, individual] or in rem [that is, standard]. Normally if the circumstances that pertain for an offender are in a way that the courtroom is of the view it must be brought home to him that he is never to commit such offences again, for example, a repeat offender, a deterrent sentence in personam is proper. When an offence is, inter alia, so widespread or is so serious within its school, and the court docket is of the opinion that those of like thoughts are to be firmly discouraged from committing the same or similar offences, then a deterrent word in rem is called for.

In simpler terms, specific deterrence is fond of the offender involved and is likely to prevent her from reoffending by the imposition of consequence; basic deterrence, on the other palm, focuses on the population at large, and stops potential offenders from participating in criminal conduct in the first place.

With its roots in the classical and utilitarian thinking about criminal offense, the deterrence theory is often in comparison to a cost-benefit analysis performed in the monetary field. Underlying the idea is the assumption that offenders, and potential offenders, are naturally rational, the sign of their activities being the quest for maximum pleasure and minimum amount pain. It follows that, as offenders choose, rationally and voluntarily, to commit offense, they respond quickly to the identified costs and great things about their activities. As Lundman talks about,

If their calculations suggest that recognized benefits will go over possible costs, then logical [offenders] commit [offences] in expectation of enjoying rewards. However, if these computations lead [crooks] to conclude that costs will surpass rewards, then the rational plan of action is to get gratification in ways in addition to [criminality].

In other words, if the calculation of the consequences of offending contributes to the conclusion that there is more to be lost than there is usually to be gained from committing crime, the offenders should be in a natural way deterred. Thus, within the utilitarian construction bad guys are invariably errant, though still logical, individuals whose perversity or anti-social self interests serve to offer some perceived advantages of offending. It really is in this light that Bentham passionately argues for the usefulness of deterrence, on the ground that the risk of abuse is 'the push employed to restrain [possible offenders]' from commission rate of crime, that the pain of abuse might effect.

Underlain by these ideas of rationality and self-interest, for deterrence theorists there are specific qualities essential to a highly effective deterrent abuse. As Newburn elaborates on these qualities first enunciated by Beccaria, punishment must include certainty and become enforced consistently, and this it can should be acknowledged by the offender; there should be celerity in the law, with punishment approaching as promptly as is possible, to ensure that both the community and the offender himself could start to see the relationship between the punishment and the offence as undoubtedly causal; and finally, it must be properly proportionate to the criminal offenses, namely the one that is relatively slight and average and inflicts pain just exceeding 'the benefits derivable from the crime'.

Moral issues with the deterrence theory

An focus on deterrence often causes a harsher word than the offender would normally be considered to need. The Court of Charm has held, counting on the Strasbourg jurisprudence, that the authentic object of deterrence can, in appropriate conditions, amply justify such sentences. It seems obvious that in such cases the sentencing goal of deterrence can be paramount. Whilst weight would, theoretically, have been accorded to the hobbies of the offender, where the alleged crimes are believed as threatening the wider community, the utilitarian theory of deterrence requirements that individual privileges and proportionality, in its slim sense, subsume under the societal passions.

Young is critical of this judicial use of deterrence as a 'word boosting factor'. He argues, not unconvincingly, that the theory is arguably 'inconsistent with important notions of justice'. Indeed, why someone's liberty you need to sacrificed for the educational impact it has on others is the best question to pose. This matter has been distributed by del Vecchio, who emphatically explained that 'the human person always bears in himself something sacred, and it is therefore not permissible to take care of him merely as a way towards a finish outside of himself. '

A more fundamental moral weakness of the idea of deterrence concerns the coherency of its ideological idea - rationality. Just as the analysis partly I, deterrence has usually built upon the premise that individuals will desist from reoffending as a result of fear natural in the discipline and punishment meted out by the state of hawaii. In the moral sense, then, a semblance of 'common reasoning' is central to the use of the utilitarian knowledge of deterrence. Yet, as the famous philosopher John Rawls persuasively argues, 'there is not a reason to presume that our sense of justice can be properly characterised by familiar good sense precepts or produced from the more apparent learning key points. '

It seems indeed somewhat simplistic to assume offenders as logical beings before or throughout committing a crime. As the house Office rightly conceded in 1990, offenders very rarely weigh up the possibilities prior to their do and typically do not react only after on rational premeditation. In many instances thieves need to take their decisions hastily. Two young males fighting in a general public streets, for example, are unlikely to have ever before thought about the consequences of their activities in heat of the moment. Furthermore, as Cornish and Clarke argue, the decision-making process of offenders is amazingly limited in their knowledge of choices, potentials and consequences. For example, most petty bad guys are often badly informed about the unlawful liability, aside from the penalties, associated with the crimes they commit. Because of this, even recognizing that offenders are rational, it might be difficult, if not impossible, for offenders to acquire accurately balanced the costs and great things about the fee of the legal act.

The weakness becomes even more obvious in the case of such rarer but usually more horrendous offences as those including assault, the offenders which are characteristically not reasoning. Hudson plausibly argues that offences of such kind are usually dedicated without a preceding careful calculation of risk. Most killings, for instance, are not rationally organized, but are impulsive and influenced by strong feeling. In other situations, such are crimes that entail intentionality where offenders commit criminal offenses regardless of the risk.

Interestingly, probably comprehending the moral complications existing therein, British courts have seldom invoked deterrence as a standalone surface for an otherwise disproportionate sentence. It is often relied on in conjunction with other penal ideas. Deterrence has, based on the jurisprudence of the Western Court of People Privileges, customarily been accepted as the twin of punishment. Thus some commentators have vanished further in contending that, in simple fact, punitiveness resides in the epicentre of the contemporary penal plans supposedly prepared by the utilitarian rules of deterrence. For them, the current political discourse and policy initiatives '[blame] the offenders, [silence] excuses and [see] the punishment of the wrongdoer as the proper response. ' Deterrence, then, is not upheld on any principled basis, but has rather been reduced to a "morality that has to be upheld long lasting useful benefits. ' Because of this, from a philosophical point of view, classical utilitarianism after that your theory of deterrence is situated would seem quite struggling to 'do justice to the mode in which quite a few actual ends matter to us. '

The epirical (in)validity of the deterrence theory

It seems good, to say that the empirical literature examining deterrence has not yielded gigantic success - different studies often have a tendency to contradict one another, on occasions immediately and completely. Some data shows that swift punishments do not abate the occurrence of subsequent offences any longer than delayed punishments, due to the cognitive capacity of humans to assume. More research work have been placed into the concern of the other two areas of deterrence. By and large, there is certainly some evidence, albeit anecdotal in a single way or another, demonstrating that certainty of punishment has a greater deterrent effect than does severity of abuse.

However, even this is more than what Radzinowicz and King have been ready to accept. They quite sensibly claim that, more exactly, it's the certainty of diagnosis or involvement, not of consequence, that is the more crucial element in deterrence. Loaning support to this view, commenting on figures in america, Cornish and Clarke shows that offenders will be placed off by the immediate concern with exposure and being captured, instead of the threat of some charges relatively remote with time. Thus it might not be any surprise when Gough concludes that deterrence should only be a minor thought, if occupying a job to play by any means, for the purposes of sentencing. What is needed, in Gough's thoughts and opinions, is tougher enforcement and targeted strategies that increase detection certainty, alternatively than any 'toughening' of sanctions.

On the other hands, there is a more critical view that the reduction of criminal offenses in these studies cannot be ascribed to deterrence. What have been influential may have been the incapacitating aftereffect of the abuse or other myriad variables quite in addition to the risks of abuse, including 'the motive for the offense, the effectiveness of the temptation, the strength of inhibitions or moral revulsion against it. '

In any circumstance, each one of these studies, deriving as they do from crime reports, must be interpreted with caution, if they be supportive or dismissive of the deterrence key points. In the end, there are no such things as 'empirical truths' so. In determining if deterrence should be regarded as being beset by empirical problems, the entire discourse would prove moot if one will not appreciate the situation of interpreting criminal offenses statistics in the first place.

Notoriously, any organised way of understanding about criminal offenses, criminals and criminal offense control framed in definitional and empirical terms is intricately problematic. Eventually, criminality is an all natural by-product of such commercial, capitalist experience as economic growth, the easier availability of communal opportunities, and the increased acknowledgement of specific liberties. It really is essentially a communal construct, differing as it can across time, place and folks. Viewed from such a point of view, deterrence is but part of a way devised by the state to statistically 'control' the communal problem of crime. Put in this wider communal and political perspective, the degree to which deterrence is, equally punishment, regarded as a fundamentally important interpersonal theory inescapably reflects the broader political market of the urban society where one lives.

As such, although criminal offenses data and unlawful figures are ostensibly transparent and open manifestations of offending patterns, to divorce the quantifiable empirical data from the broader politicisation of crime would be an unrealistic exercise provided the intricate settings in the present day liberal democracy such as this country, where criminal offenses, sociology and politics overall economy are inextricably intertwined. Doubts have therefore historically been cast onto the verity of the state figures with the most pessimistic criminological interpretations recommending that crime statistics are universally doctored, and therefore of limited worthy of to the understanding of the relationship between crime, their state and abuse. In the ultimate analysis, imagining criminal offense figures as being clear of bias is always to disregard the 'tension between extensive generalization and the specs of empirical particulars', and the interpretation thereof will undoubtedly entails an extremely objective view associated with an inherently subjective sensation.

The 'anti-deterrent' ramifications of consequence: a criminological perspective

Some criminologists do not merely dismiss deterrence as unconvincing, but have vanished further in arguing that, quite definately not producing the supposed result, fear of abuse might sometimes lead directly to the commission payment of crime. It is possible that a lawbreaker who has recently offended, however, not yet apprehended, feels they have little to lose from further offending, because they need to be punished 'anyway'. As Taylor cites as a eye-catching example, sooner or later within the last century, a considerable minority of unmarried women in Scotland have been powered to commit infanticide exactly because of the concern with being publicly humiliated as a abuse for adultery.

For those people who have been apprehended and punished, further offending behavior continues to be not impossible under the 'labelling theory', under which criminality is to be thought of as a quality created undoubtedly when punitive sanctions are applied to behaviour regarded as "offending". The offender takes on a criminal personal information when he is labelled consequently by a variety of cultural reactions, including and following a imposition of the official sanction, which includes the effect of isolating her from culture. Her opportunity to live by reliable means whilst being labelled lawbreaker would quite conceivably be reduced significantly, and holiday resort might then have to be needed to illegitimate means of life. In this manner the label is dramatised to the amount so it becomes entrenched and internalised. In this light, the labelled, stigmatised and socially isolated, have to simply accept their position as criminals and restore their lives accordingly, leading to a larger degree of deviance.

In this sense, punishment within the framework of deterrence may in truth be counterproductive in reducing incidence of recidivism. With all the negative social relationships that punishment entails, a word which speaks to the deterrence of the individual offender seems to strengthen the self-prophecy of criminality, render reintegration into the standard world difficult, and a unlawful career almost inevitable. Thus abuse with a deterrent element may ironically lead to the campaign of the sort of activities that it is designed to prevent.

Conclusion: Abandoning deterrenceor not?

Deterrence has for the most part been reduced as a highly effective and justifiable approach to sentencing by academics, specifically criminologists, who are often more happy to consider the complexities as well as the consequences of legal activity. However, the popular appeal of the notion as a 'commonsense' method of sentencing seems to persist even today.

Given the key case of Attuh-Benson, it seems unlikely that makes an attempt, however able and sincere, to bring the criticisms levelled resistant to the effectiveness of deterrence prior to the courts would be of any avail. There the Court of Charm forcefully pronounced that '[i]f a new approach is to be adopted it should be in response to direction from the Sentencing Suggestions Council who may decide to consider this matter. ' In the end, it is important to note that how the state of hawaii responds to criminality has always constituted an inexorably divisive conundrum with hardly any consensus as to what ought to stand for a 'just' consequence. And sentencers, even those of the eminence and seniority of the Lord Justices of Appeal, will understandably consider and defer to the legislative objectives set forth in the Felony Justice Act 2003, one particular being deterrence. Indeed, matching to established concepts of the normal law, this isn't an area in which the court should, in the words of Borins DCJ, resting in the Canadian Supreme Courtroom, 'cross on the knowledge of Parliament. ' Consequently, discourses of deterrence are likely to remain a distinguishing feature of the English sentencing policy, as in elsewhere on the planet.

(4172 words)

Table of conditions:


Ciccone (1974) 7 SASR 11 Oct, 113

Guiller (1985) 48 CR (3d) 226

Luxton (1990) 58 CCC (3d) 449

Smith (1987) 34 CCC (3d) 97

England and Wales

Attuh-Benson [2004] EWCA Crim 3032

Bieber [2008] EWCA Crim 1601

Brown v Stott [2001] 2 WLR 817

Holloway (1982) 4 Cr. App. R. (S) 128

Howells [1999] 1 All ER 50

Sargeant (1974) 60 Cr App R 74

Zampa (1984) 6 Cr. App. R. (S) 110

European Court of Human Privileges

Ezeh & Connors v. United Kingdom (2004) 39 EHRR 1

Hong Kong

AG v Tang King-ming [1986] HKLR 211

HKSAR v Hiroyuki Takeda [1998] 1 HKLRD 931

Secretary for Justice v Ma Ping-wah [2000] 2 HKLRD 312

Also We Can Offer!

Other services that we offer

If you don’t see the necessary subject, paper type, or topic in our list of available services and examples, don’t worry! We have a number of other academic disciplines to suit the needs of anyone who visits this website looking for help.

How to ...

We made your life easier with putting together a big number of articles and guidelines on how to plan and write different types of assignments (Essay, Research Paper, Dissertation etc)