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CRIM 300W (51)
Jay H (14)
Lecture 4

Week 4 Textbook - Neo-Classical School

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Simon Fraser University
Jay H

WEEK 4 – MODERN APPLICATIONS OF THE CLASSICAL PERSPECTIVE Deterrence, Rational Choice, and Routine Activities/Lifestyle Theories of Crime Introduction  Beginning in the late 19 century, criminological researchers dismissed the Classical/Neo-classical framework  An emphasis was placed on social, biological or other factors that go beyond free will and deterrence theory Rebirth of Deterrence Theory and Contemporary Research  1960s – Becarrian model experienced rebirth  Studies revealed new interest in the deterrent aspect of criminal behavior and supported the importance of certainty, severity of punishment in deterring individuals, especially homicide  Increased risk or certainty of punishment was associated with less crime for most serious offences  Offenders who are arrested once never get arrested again  Many studies used statistical formulas to measure the degree of certainty and severity of punishment in given jurisdictions o Crimes reported to police : number of arrests o Ratio of arrests : convictions, findings of guilt o Higher = lower crime rate in jurisdiction  However, scientific evidence regarding measures of severity did not show much impact on crime o States with death penalty = high murder rates o Murderers in death penalty states who were not executed served less time than murderers in non-death penalty states  Studies incorporating aggregate (macro-level) statistics are not adequate indicators or valid measures of the deterrence theoretical framework  too much emphasis on the individual o Flawed because different regions have different crime rates o No information on the degree whether individuals in the regions perceive sanctions as being certain, severe, or swift  Unit of analysis shifted from aggregate level  more micro, individual level  CROSS-SECTIONAL STUDIES – deterrence research that focused on individual perceptions of certainty and severity of sanctions (drawn at one point in time) 1 o Perceptions of certainty strongly associated with intentions to commit future crimes o Not clear whether perceptions where causing behavior changes or behavior causing changes in perception  LONGITUDINAL STUDIES – studies of individual perceptions and deterrence over time, branched off from cross-sectional studies o Behaviors influence perceptions, not the other way  EXPERIENTAL EFFECT – people’s previous experience highly influences their expectations regarding their changes of being caught and resulting in penalties o Ex) drinking and driving  No prior offences = unrealistically high chance of being caught  Repeated offenders = really low chance of being caught o Ex) white-collar criminals  Individuals we want to deter are the least likely to be deterred because they have nothing to lose o Those with something to lose are the most likely to be deterred by sanctions  Those who are unemployed, poor do not have much to lose and for some, incarceration may not present a significant departure from the deprived lives that they lead o Being arrested had little effect on perceptions of the certainty of punishment; offending actually corresponded with decreases in such perceptions  Incarceration isn’t that big of a step in life for some  3 meals a day, shelter, relative stability  Influence of perceived certainty or severity of punishment must control for previous behaviors and experiences in such behavior  Longitudinal studies are useful but it may take up to a year between then the crime was committed and when the offenders were asked about their perceptions  SCENARIO (VIGNETTE) RESEARCH – study that estimates participant’s immediate intent to commit a criminal act in a given situation as well as their immediate perceptions of certainty and severity of punishment in the same situation o Deals with limitations of previous methodological strategies for studying the effects of deterrence of criminal offending, specifically since individual perceptions change over time and across different situations o Promoted a contemporaneous response about perceptions of the risk and severity of perceived sanctions o Arguments:  Intentions to commit crimes in hypothetical situation are not accurate measures 2  Did not allow respondents to develop their own perceptions and costs associated with each offence o High correlation between reports in scenario and real life o More affected by perceptions of certainty than perceptions of severity o Helped solidify the importance of extralegal variables in deterring criminal behavior  Ex) police, courts, corrections, employment, family, friends, community Rational Choice Theory  RATIONAL CHOICE THEORY – used to explain a variety of individual decisions regarding a variety of behaviors o Factors that go into a person’s decision to engage, or not engage, in a particular act  Studies show that: o Shame or loss of self-esteem is one of the most important variables to determining actions o Influence of peers has an impact on individual’s perception of pros and cons of offending by significantly decreasing the perceived risk of punishment o Influence of individual’s behavior on those around them o Expected benefits, particularly the pleasure they would get from such offending, had most significant effects of their decisions to offend  Informal deterrent variables typically hold more influence on individual’s decision making regarding deviant activity than offic
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