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Is General Deterrence Likely to Reduce Crime - Essay Example

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Is General Deterrence Likely to Reduce Crime

Imposing punishment as deterrence to crime is a criminal justice philosophy that was first conceptualized by Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham who provided the philosophical foundation of the deterrence and rational choice theory. Cesare Beccaria formulated the theory out of his disgust of the primitive justice system of his time that he considered as whimsical and excessive. He thought of an alternative justice system that is rational, just and efficient, thus is his general deterrence theory (Paternoster, 2010). Today’s prevailing thought about how crime can be curbed or curtailed can be said to be consistent of the general deterrence theory. It is the idea that criminal acts can be prevented out of fear of sanction and, thus, would-be offenders would be deterred to commit crime. In this theory, law enforcement or policing is necessary to have the perception among would be offenders, a risk or certainty of apprehension that would eventually lead to meting out a punishment. The general deterrence theory is hinged on the premise that a man acts out of self-interest or as Beccaria would put it “the despotic spirit which is present in every man” (Beccaria, 1764, p. 94). ...
Thus, being a rational being, the man will elect a course of action based on what will benefit him the most. Following this line of argument, if the pain of punishment far outweighs the benefit or pleasure of breaking a law, and that apprehension and punishment is certain, the man being a rationale being will avoid crime and deterrence takes effect. This theory, however, was questioned and doubted by several scholars on the field of criminal justice. Among them is Von Hentig, a former editor of the journal who dismissed the validity of general deterrence in reducing crime. According to Von Hentig, general deterrence will not work because the threat of punishment is not immediate and distant to the would-be offender. The danger presented by the punishment to the offender is perceived as remote and, thus, can be readily offset by the immediate advantage of committing to the crime (1938). Von Hentig also critiqued the philosophical foundation of general deterrence that there are individuals who are immune from the threats of legal punishment. He cited those who are motivated by “maternal instincts, the young and women who tend to be impetuous, those motivated by ideology, the “have-nots,” and the feeble-minded” (Paternoster, 2011, p. 773). Von Hentig also dismissed the theory that men are basically motivated by pleasure and discouraged by pain as being naive considering the complicity of life (1938). Andenaes shared Von Hentig’s skepticism and doubted general deterrence’s efficacy in reducing crime. For Andenaes, the use of state sanctioned threat of punishment to deter crime is not a sound empirical basis for the validity of the proposition of general deterrence (Paternoster, 2011). These points of view of Andenaes and Von Hentig are shared ...Show more
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Is general deterrence likely to reduce crime? Name Class Instructor Date Is general deterrence likely to reduce crime? General deterrence as a mechanism to reduce crime is grounded on the basic premise of intimidating and threatening people to refrain them from committing crime…
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