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Should we deter against general deterrence?

journal contribution
posted on 2018-12-01, 00:00 authored by Athula 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policymakers who presently spend excessively on an outdated and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

Issue

1

Pagination

63 - 115

Publisher

Wake Forest University School of Law

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

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