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Should we deter against general deterrence?

Version 2 2024-06-18, 13:07
Version 1 2019-02-07, 11:16
journal contribution
posted on 2024-06-18, 13:07 authored by A Pathinayake
One of the primary aims of sentencing is general deterrence, or utilizing punishment to discourage future (re)offending. This article calls into question the intuitive wisdom underpinning this aim and reviews relevant literature to provide strong evidence that general deterrence is ineffective at reducing criminal offending. The near ubiquity of deterrence theory is partly attributed to its foundations, including the readily-grasped propositions of early philosophers in the sphere and the relative liberalism of the approach in the context of the more barbaric practices of the time of its adoption. However, despite the eagerness with which judges and policymakers have addressed sentencing in terms of deterrence, studies conducted over the past several decades have failed to produce compelling evidence for the effectiveness of punishment as a deterrent. To increase the deterrent effect of punishment, evidence supports maximisation of certainty and celerity, alongside the maintenance of an optimum level of severity. However, alternative approaches may decrease the costs associated with crime reduction and act as more effective means to reduce the crime rate. This article reviews the wide body of work surrounding the study of general deterrence as a method of decreasing crime, from its founding principles through the pertinence of certainty, celerity, and severity. After reviewing the practical implications of the research, it is recommended that the principles established throughout the literature be heeded by policymakers who presently spend excessively on an outdated and ineffective strategy for preventing crime.

History

Journal

Wake Forest journal of law and policy

Volume

9

Pagination

63-115

Location

Winston-Salem, N.C.

ISSN

0043-003X

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2018, the Wake Forest Journal of Law & Policy

Issue

1

Publisher

Wake Forest University School of Law

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