Criminological theory which supports the concept of deterrence

Criminological theory which supports the concept of deterrence

Deterrence theory

The concept of deterrence involves the use of punishment to discourage offenders from committing further crimes. It is based on assumptions that a punishment imposed on specific offenders prevents them from engaging in criminal activities. The fear of punishment aims at preventing other offenders from engaging in similar crimes (Vito & Maahs, 2012). In most of the democratic society, the concept of deterrence establishes the background form criminal justice systems. The deterrence theory is a criminology theory that supports the concept of deterrence. The proponents of the deterrence theory argue that people majorly choose to violate the law following the calculations of consequences and gains presupposed from their actions (Vito & Maahs, 2012). Overall, however, proving the relative effectiveness of the deterrence concept is difficult. Only the offenders not affected by the deterrence concept come to the attention of law enforcement.

According to the deterrence theory, the concept is in two basic types namely specific and general. General deterrence is a concept designed with the aim of preventing crimes in the general population (Vito & Maahs, 2012). The punishment of state offenders serves as a relative example for the general populace who has not yet engaged in criminal activities. Its purpose is to ensure that they are aware of official sanctions horrors in order to ensure they never commit crimes. The theory cites general examples such as the use of corporal punishment and the application of the death penalty. General deterrence has provisions only to deter witnesses of pain infliction (Skolnick et al, 2005). This is mostly upon a convict from involving in the crimes themselves with cases of corporal punishments helping with passing the message. The modern society has witnessed instances of televised executions as called upon by advocates as a means of deterring murder (Skolnick et al, 2005).

Specific deterrence is established through the nature of prescribed sanctions with the aim of deterring only the offenders from engaging in a similar crime in the future. Specific deterrence proponents also consider the aspect of punishing offenders severally. It is through the belief that it will make them reoffend unwillingly in the future (Skolnick et al, 2005). Deterrence theory elaborates the concept through a relative example of a drunk driver who is deterred from drinking then driving. This is due to an unpleasant experience suffered from arrests. It may also involve confiscating of his her license or impounding the car. The state is responsible for applying the necessary pain meant to offset the pleasure derived from drinking (Skolnick et al, 2005).

The theory of deterrence relies on three major components, including certainty, severity and celerity. The more severe most of the punishment are is proof that it is likely that a rationally thinking person will try to desist from criminal activities. In prevention of crime, criminal laws must ensure emphasis on penalties with the aim of encouraging citizens to adhere to the provisions of the law (Winfree & Abadinsky, 2010). Severe punishments are unjust, while punishments that are not severe enough do not deter criminals from engaging in crime. Deterrence theory argues that if the punishment is certain, severe and swift, a rational individual is more likely to measure the relative gains and losses prior to engaging in a crime (Winfree & Abadinsky, 2010). Such an individual is deterred from violating the law when the loss has more significance than the gain.

According to Brown et al (2012), the deterrence concept remains one of the key intellectual foundations of the western criminal justice systems and law. The idea that endorses deter criminals have relatively influenced penal sanctions, especially in death penalty cases (Brown et al, 2012). Most of the adherents of the theory have had consistent favoritism. This is majorly on policies, including the establishment of prisons, certainty of sentencing and conviction, longer sentencing severity and the recruitment of police officers (Winfree & Abadinsky, 2010). Deterrence theorists believe that together, such policies would enable the reduction of recidivism of the convicted offenders. It will also curtail possible participation in criminal activities by future offenders.

Theories of criminality which state that the sources of criminality are not irrational choices

Classical theory of crime

The focus on the aspect of human nature irrationality bases on the classical theory of crime to assist in situational crime prevention. The theory argues basing on the idea that people can live together based on harmony and that individuals who choose to engage in crime do so willingly without considering other factors (Samaha, 2008). Crime prevention originates from cases of fear that the individuals who step out of the societal norms would face terrible punishments of being an outcast. Through the theory, it is assumed that the sources of criminality define why crime as a purposive behavior is designed to meet the commonplace needs of the offender. Classical theorists also claim that if the benefits of the crime are more appealing compared to the related punishments, then the criminals involved choose to commit such crimes (Samaha, 2008).

Classical theorists have been in agreement of the societal structure that assists in shaping the actions and behaviors necessary for survival (Samaha, 2008). Social contracts and relative emphasis on the formation of law defines human behavior and the crime related choices made. This also includes the regulation of individual behavior with the aim of protecting the society against cases of the inherent rationality of crime or self-interests. In the creation of a system to deter crime from the aspects of unpleasant punishments, the theory suggests that the consideration of harsh punishments will drive people to avoid cases of unfavorable outcomes (Samaha, 2008). The idea of a social contract as suggested by the classical theorists is to enable the provision of an understanding in support of what is acceptable to all (Samaha, 2008). This is to ensure the common pursuit of the society happiness and the establishment of social order to maximize the achievement of personal interests.

According to the classical theory of crime, societal respect forms the primary focus in the justice system. Individuals are, therefore, expected to consider the good of the society before personal interests. All individuals are rational and are involved in criminal activities majorly for self intent (Brown et al, 2012). They separate crime from the aspect if social accountability conditions through purporting individual based decisions as blame. The comparative balance of what is to deter the criminals from cases of crime and the established judicial due processes without cases of bias forms the significant elements of the classical theory. This assists in explaining rational judgments of most of the individuals indulging in criminal activities. The theory establishes the significant reasons for criminal behaviors basing on the rational perspective of an individual (Brown et al, 2012). This creates validity for most of the individuals who resort to criminal behaviors, but leaves out the individuals with irrational behaviors.

The classical theory elaborates on the benefits and costs of crime broadly, including the unperturbed and official permissions. According to the theory concept, there is a range of significant factors that influence criminal behaviors such as emotional state, moral beliefs, and relations with delinquent peers (Brown et al, 2012). In addition, many classical theorists have noted that punishment severity has a far less significant, especially for potential criminals, as opposed to the surety of the resulting punishment.

Biological theory of crime

The biological theory facilitates an elaborate explanation on how crime is not a social factor occurrence, but the distinct biological element that compels individuals to engage in criminal behaviors (Barlow & Kauzlarich, 2009). Many of the criminal behaviors are as a result of physical alteration of an individual’s body especially the brain functionality. Genetic and physical factors constitute an individual’s ability to engage in criminal activities. Body alterations may prevent human bond development of the societal framework and prevents the normal behavior and social development (Barlow & Kauzlarich, 2009). The biological perspective criminality uses traditional scientific based research techniques informing the study of behavior. This enables the classification of the determinants that contribute to crime.

The treatment of individuals engaging in criminal behaviors has a greater significance in deterring crime compared to the judicial laws that mostly confine the criminal behaviors. The biological theory majorly focuses on the irrational aspect of individuals which are the genetic alterations. The theory focuses on the possibility that individuals may be involved in a crime. The prediction of the unexpected behaviors is relatively based on the biological inefficiencies of an individual. The development and genetic makeup of an individual establishes the rate of deviance likely to dominate their future actions and decisions (Barlow & Kauzlarich, 2009). This opinion reflects on an argument that questions the entire process and purpose of severe punishment as one of the successful methods of deterrence. Besides its theoretical concept that differs from the classical theory of crime, there are relative examples of cases that argue against its ideas (Barlow & Kauzlarich, 2009).

An opinion as to what ramifications this criminological research may hold

This criminological research evaluating the concept of deterrence in relation to the criminological theories may hold significant consequences for mens rea. The major concept of the mens rea necessitates that an individual conviction of a crime should significantly reflect on the idea that the person intended to commit the crime (Siegel, 2013). In evaluating the research, it is admissible that mens rea is not always respected and executed. The study assessed in the research is proof that most of the crimes committed in the modern society by individuals not in control of their actions. Such cases may involve mental strain. Moreover, the measure of an individual’s guilt should be the most significant factor when determining the proper punishment for a committed crime (Siegel, 2013).

The contemporary criminology exists in a rapidly evolving world. This criminological research establishes a concept of profundity and speed at which justice system changes are echoed. It involves rapidly changing characters in a societal context (Siegel, 2013). This is based on crime policy, crime rates and the practices of prevention, policing and punishment. With an outlook of the immediate punishments and crime data, significant processes are involved in underpinning them to the routines of social control and life. Through the current major transformations in the judicial system, it has become apparent that criminology as a subject matter has central implications (Siegel, 2013). The assumptions that animate this criminological research hold significant ramifications. This is in relation to the challenges posed for criminology through cultural, economic and political transformations.

The research suggests that restructuring of economic and social relations, the technological change speed, the social process fluidity and cultural heterogeneity constituting modernity pose intellectual challenges for the aspect of criminology (Siegel, 2008). Basing on the outcomes of the research, pursuing conventional criminological agendas through accustomed processes means focusing on the most significant issues that face the public policy and contemporary social thoughts. Ramifications would include focusing on the aspect of perspicacity, clarity and relevance that the society has been observing. Social transformations during the late modernity pose a significant problem of criminological relevance and understanding as seen in the research (Siegel, 2008). This criminological research may also pose definite implications for intellectual, political commitments and strategic aims that the context of criminology entails.

Through the research, the different levels of mens rea are able to establish a broader sense of criminology, including the crime control incentives and organized ways of punishing criminals. This is since the research puts criminology in institutionalized and social settings that shape its development. In measuring one’s guilt, mens rea plays a significant role (Siegel, 2008). It presents the intent rate an individual had in the process of committing a crime. When considering the rational choice theory and the mens rea concept, perfectly formulated and sophisticated notion is established. This is to enable an understanding of the criminal behaviors. Modern criminology combines its faith in professionalism and scientific expertise with an open-minded reform context (Siegel, 2008). The criminal justice system holds the solutions to most of the crime problems and holds the responsibility for implementation. This is why the principle of mens rea has facilitated the presence of many people in the modern courtrooms, including the judges, prosecutors, jury, psychologist, psychiatrist, and forensic scientists in solving cases (Siegel, 2008).

The criminological research elaborates on the fact that the crime policy has been conducted in a bipartisan mode outside electoral politics. This is to delegate policy formation to the aspect of practitioners and professionals. Decision making has been transferable from judges to criminological experts as one of the requirements of the criminological framework which perceives criminal behavior as manageable. It professionalizes the criminal justice system as a self contained organ to make standard judgments valued in criminal law (Siegel, 2008). In most cases, there are relative difficulties in measuring the guilt of an individual and the intent to commit criminal offenses such as murder examining solely the crime itself.

Concurring with the provisions of the theories, it is possible that criminology theories are involving and correlates to the concept of mens rea (Cullen & Wilcox, 2013). In respect to the modern criminal laws which mens rea is part of, the ongoing simplification and generalization process of standards and legal norms should be brought to an end. This is to establish way for a more just and ethical standards of practicing law within the jurisdictions of the contemporary courtrooms.


Social changes have established a situation in which criminology as a concept relies on the forms of individual thinking in relation to behaviors. Such changes have marked criminology in an intellectual and institutional manner, making crime appear a normal feature in the contemporary world. With criminological concepts establishing self-consciousness about crime social situation, the different levels of mens rea fit the criminological theories. This since an individual is of own volition with the desire for specific things and fights when desires are in conflict. People pursue self interests such as social reputation and personal safety and end up making enemies without considering the harm caused to others in the process (Cullen et al, 2008). Since most of the individuals in the society have the determination to achieve self-interests, it mostly results to case of resistance and conflicts without a proper government to ensure safety. This proves the rational perspective of humans and how the self-interest results in cases of criminal behaviors due to exclusion and alienation of some society members. Through such instances, the different levels of mens rea fit the criminological theories such as the classical theory of crime and the deterrence theory (Cullen et al, 2008).

According to Cullen et al (2008), the different levels give focus to cases of situational crime prevention. This includes an opportunity reducing measures that involve design, management or manipulation of the immediate environment through systematic processes (Cullen et al, 2008). Strict liability connects to deterrence theorists beliefs that when a punishment is swift and certain, it defines the rate at which a rational individual will measure up to the gains and losses. The mens rea elaborates on how a crime occurs through outweighing the cost, especially when people ought to pursue self-interest in the absence of reliable punishments. Purposeful inequality in material well-being and power sometimes creates the conditions in which criminal behaviors are nurtured (Cullen et al, 2008). Capitalism and its corresponding market economy form a special criminogenic aspect in the process creating a vast disparity that later impoverishes most of the people exposed. This provides the opportunities through which the powerful experience exploitation (Cullen et al, 2008).

Criminal justice and punishment has become one of the contentious, topical and urgent social elements of the modern times. Basing on the criminological theories, mens rea proves that the consideration of judicial measures can, therefore, provide a platform for crime reduction. The theories are rooted in human behavior analysis indicating individual’s rational behaviors which involves calculation of rationality through crime outcomes (Brown et al, 2012). In this line of reasoning, prevention of criminal behaviors in the society should involve forms and implementation of punishments equivalent to committed crime severity. The concept of criminal punishment as elaborated in the theories of crime involves special deterrence and general deterrence (Brown et al, 2012). This means that the criminal justice system is valued as one of the most significant aspects in the context of punishment in relation to the mens rea concept. Criminology concept should, therefore, provide a framework for engaging in public discourse to enable addressing of crime as a central issue.


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Brown, E. S., Esbensen, Finn-Aage & Geis, G. (2012). Criminology: Explaining crime and its context. Cincinnati, Ohio: Anderson.

Cullen, F. T., & Wilcox, P. (2013). The Oxford handbook of criminological theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Cullen, F. T., Wright, J. P., & Blevins, K. R. (2008). Taking stock: The status of criminological theory. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Samaha, J. (2008). Criminal justice. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

Siegel, L. J. (2008). Criminology: The core. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

Siegel, L. J. (2013). Criminology: Theories, patterns, and typologies. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

Skolnick, J. H., Feeley, M., McCoy, C., & Kaplan, J. (2005). Criminal justice: Introductory cases and materials. New York: Foundation Press.

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Winfree, L. T., & Abadinsky, H. (2010). Understanding crime: Essentials of criminological theory. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.