The history and concept of deterrence
Even though the strict policies and laws are there to abide by the legislature in punishing the criminals yet it is failing to stop the number of crimes occurring all across the globe. There must be an existing problem with deterrence that is unable to identify the cause behind the nature of crimes and criminals. An individual is instigated by impulse and cannot be stopped by harsh punishment only. The individuals can have other strong motives to perform crimes without even considering the harsh penalties which is lower in stimulation than their motives. In criminal offenses, deterrence is referred to as an idea or theory that the fear of being punished will discourage people from committing crimes hence lowering the likelihood of crime in the society (Kahan, 2019). It is a practice that is capable of restricting the politicians or other people from involving into unwanted grave actions like armed attack. It is just the opposite of “compellence” as takes the responsibility of stopping an action than forcing it to happen (du Preez & Muthaphuli, 2019).
In the 1960s, the concept of deterrence is the most widely discussed topic in criminology (Johnson, 2019). It is present in the society since 18th century as the classical doctrine of criminology. Deterrence is based on the utilitarian philosophy whereas the rationality applies the theory of economics extracted from the customary utilitarian (Udoudom et al., 2019). The theories were based on the believe that people are aware of their actions and the consequences of their actions so they make rational decisions in their life. The criminal actions are prohibited or deterred by the harsh punishment being inflicted as the result of the actions which led to the decline in criminal offence whereas in rational theory that people perform those functions that are low in cost however higher in pay off (Chiao, 2021). Rationality is being widely used in criminology, law, sociology, and political science. The concept of rationality and deterrence is interlinked and has been researched thoroughly to establish the view point of the eradication of criminology (Loughran et al., 2018).
The two elementary approaches of deterrence are (a) deterrence by denial strategies (b) deterrence by means of punishment (Borghard & Lonergan, 2021). The strategies involved in deterrence by aiming to condemn an action by making it impossible to attain or difficult to succeed. It declines an aggressor with strong objectives who choose to obtain the goal by deploying a huge number of local military troops for resisting an assault. The strategy of deterrence by denial can resist a potential threat from the risk of a destructive loss. It is mostly accountable for the intention of defensiveness against a grave commitment. Whereas the deterrence by punishment predicts sever consequences for the occurrence of an attack, like nuclear escalation or harsh economic repercussions (Kaminska, 2021). The penalties of deterrence by punishment are associated with local struggle fight and diverse world. The emphasise on deterrence is indirect and focuses on increasing the threat of punishment that would eventually increase the economic investment in an attack (Kim, 2019). Researchers have suggested that the strategy of denial is more effective than the strategy of punishment. It is assumed that the penalties associated with crimes instil a strong grip over that helps in the reduction of crime. The deterrence theory was regarded as the fundamental function of punishment as the prospect of punishment will deter people from committing crimes as they would have performed otherwise.
The limitations of deterrence in stopping crime
The Rational choice theory is one of the primary concepts in social work as it emphasizes on explaining the behaviour of an individual that influences the decision making (Chen et al., 2019). In the opinion of the rational choice theory, decision making is mainly based on choices firstly considering the following factors such as costs, benefits and risks involved in making the decision. Rational choice theory is applicable in varied fields such as in areas of economics, philosophy, sociology and psychology. The theory describes that the choices made by the individual are established on the facts of self-interests that will incur benefits to them. Personnel preferences play an important role in influencing the choices of an individual. According to the rational choice theory every behaviour has a rational explanation for behaviour. A set of axioms that can be utilised to anticipate how people will take a decision. The pair of alternatives such as consistent, transitive, independent, monotonic and continuous assists in making decisions as per the axioms. The decision maker possibly come to a conclusion of making a decision by ranking all the possibilities that seems to be the most desirable referred to as the “assumption of connectedness”. The preferences of an individual can be equal, uneven or uneven can be listed down while preparing a decision while considering a wide range of preferences. The theory of deterrence has a downfall according to the rational choice theory as harsh punishment or strategies of deterrence cannot stop the crime as the choices are made and driven by personal need and desire which cannot be stopped by the punishment. If committing an act bears more benefits then an individual or group of people will be more drawn towards the act than the fear of punishment. General Strain theory is a type of criminal theory that suits the positivist approach in that societal factors influences the people to commit crime. According to the strain theory, stress causes bad emotions that directs to a variety of outcomes like criminality. The three factors of general strain theory are (a) presence of harmful or negative impulses, (b) inadequate positive impulses and (c) failing to secure a goal. When people are under stress, they tend to experience negative emotions, such as rage when they interpret adversity as being enforced by others, unjust treatment give rise to feelings of resentment, and experience despair or anxiety when they end up blaming themselves for the stressful outcome. The general strain theory distinguishes between escapist (drug usage), instrumental (property crimes), and retaliatory (violent crimes) delinquent adaptations. Adolescents are susceptible to illegal behaviour and aggression as a source of coping to stress due to limited alternatives for coping, strong influence from peer, incapable to exit frustrating and difficult circumstances. According to the deterrence theory, criminality or criminal offences can be controlled by increasing the level of punishment or increasing the cost that involves in the procedure of carrying out the crime. As explained by the rational theory and general strain theory that crime is not only driven by one factor or controlled by punishment. Criminal behaviour is influenced by social treatment, unjust behaviour, suppression or repression in the society that triggers stress with in individual and without even considering the consequences they delve into several violent acts. The criminal behaviour is justified with other personal motives and reasons also that is influenced by personal benefits, befitting the needs of the individual. The two theories explain the downfall of the deterrence effort to reduce crime through strict punishment. Researchers have found that death penalties have not been able to deter the crime of murder.
The rational choice theory in decision making
Both the theories, the general strain and rationale theory explains the other factors that are responsible for inducing criminal behaviour or impulses in the individual. The assumptions based on rational choice theory are (a) actions are mostly rationalized due to the involvement of rewards and costs (b) the drive for the action or reward must surpass the cost required for carrying out the action (c) the reward when is lowered than the costs incurred, people will end the plan of conducting the action (d) People will utilise the resources to enhance the reward. The decisions made by the individuals are not based on cultural norms, unconscious motivations, and environmental factors. The decisions are taken after analysing the possible risks and implications as per the rational reasoning. Anger plays a key role in impacting the strain on triggering violence and delinquency. Anger increases the level of individual’s perceived hurt, produces a desire for vengeance, invigorates the action, and reduces barriers (Valor et al., 2022). Whereas in the rational choice theory explains the criminal behaviour as the result of an offender’s choices and decisions. When it comes to achieving their aims, criminals have a choice to seek between criminal and non-criminal actions. In the opinion of researchers, a rational choice on crime offers a line of investigation that is accountability change and for stability as well as criminal conduct. Rational choice theory aims to address the “root” cause of the crime emphasizing on the issues of committing crimes rather than the employment of the nature of non-criminal means (Kennedy, 2019). Rational choices do not consider the contribution of strain or emotional involvement while taking the decision, it is believed that all the decisions are calculated and practical understanding of the situation as per the relation with the objective and costing to execute the plan (Wildavsky, 2018). The theory can aid in understanding the behaviour of an individual or group as well as determining why people belonging in a group, society or individually make various decisions that are established on the ground of specific rewards and costs. Harsh punishment are effective as specific deterrence advocates that punishment enforces less appearance of crimes by the offenders. A student, for instance, who consumes alcohol in school would be deterred from consuming alcohol and being in school as the unpleasant experience will lead to the suspension of the student form the school or being rusticate forever. The state law must be strict enough to imply pain on offenders so that they refrain from involving in any activities. Punishment makes sure that the offender must be punished for his criminal act. A classical theorist like Beccaria has mentioned that individuals will be more aware before committing a crime and refrain from doing so in future due to the consequences they might face as the result of the act (Thomas et al., 2021). It has been believed by the deterrence theorists that with the severity of punishment, a person who is rational will evaluate the loss and gains before committing the crime and shall be deterred because violating the regulations if the gain is lesser than the loss. However, certainty must be maintained while addressing criminals and offenders, torturous means to be avoided in need to extract information. Death penalty must be carried out swiftly for punishing criminals of serious crimes as an effective method. Although while implementing harsh punishments, it is important to understand the driving force of the criminals behind the crime, hence rectification can be made with the identification of the problem as mentioned in both the theories.
Factors influencing individual choice
The rational choice theory helps in understanding the question of why the harsh punishment are not able to stop crimes in the society (McCruish et al., 2018). A human is an intelligent animal who uses the capabilities of the brain while making a choice which is so severe in nature. An individual examines and analysis the benefits and risks of an actions that might fall upon them. At times, the personal revenge or grievance is so high at stake that they do not bother to care about the strict punishment they might face as repercussion of their action. Strain theory has emphasized on stress, anger and frustration. Emotions do play a role in influencing the decision-making ability which can yield positive or negative result. Strong emotions can make a person act a number of things that would not be performed otherwise, however the emotion declines with time and takes a setback. It does not have a lasting effect on the decision making and harsh punishment will work for them. As individual will be able to understand the mistakes committed by them and the rate of crime will reduce. The individual who has utilised rationality was sure of his actions and consequences, will perform the activity at any cost, as it is a choice made by the individual and not an impulsive action out of anger or stress. Hence, the rational choice theory gives perfect insight about the problem of deterrence.
It can be concluded from the discussion that behind the crimes there are other factors that outperform the others. Either emotional feelings like stress, frustration, anger, vengeance or rational choice made due to prolonged suffering in a community enforces a person to behave in a manner that affects the impact of deterrence to control crime. It is essential to consider the other responsible view points before constituting harsh punishments for criminals that will help in the reduction of crimes performed.
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