SOC222 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Juvenile Delinquency, John Stuart Mill, Glasser'S Choice Theory
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Week 2 - Deterrence and Rational Choice Part I
The classical theories are a foundation of deterrence and rational choice, and explanation of criminal
Choice Theory: believes that youth engage in delinquent behaviour after weighing the consequences
and benefits of their actions.
- Offenders are rational thinkers
- They think that their action will be more beneficial rather than costly
- The decision making process can be influenced if there is a greater likelihood of being punished
for the behaviour
- Example: getting caught by parents
- Certainty of punishment changes the likelihood of committing a delinquent act.
- Prior to the enlightenment we relied on spiritual explanation.
- Developed a freedom of choice, free will and rationality
Free Will: Freedom to make personal behavioural choices unencumbered by external factors
- Crime as a particular individual form of evil and as a moral wrongdoing that is fed by personal
- Causes of crime lie between the individual offender
- Motivation: Self interest and subject the responsibilities for their actions.
- The principle of free will dictates that crime is a matter of choice, and people are motivated by
personal reasons to commit crime independent of factors external to the individual
- Such as poverty
- Two key points: 1) Individuals are responsible for their own behaviour because they possess
free will. 2) Free will allows a person to exercise control over their actions, decisions and
Determinism: Behaviour is caused by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences
- States that every event, action, decision, or behaviour is causally determined by an unbroken
chain of prior occurrences.
- Example: stole bread, hungry, no money, job, poor.. etc
Utilitarianism: Political and social actions should achieve the greatest good for the most people
- Protection of the society
- This basically means you have to take the people into account while making any decisions.
- “The greatest happiness principle” “The greatest good for the greatest number of people”
As classical school rejects determinism and embraces the principle of free will
Three defining characteristics to understanding juvenile delinquency
1) A behaviour, decision, or action is determined through individuals using free will and rational
decision making in pursuit of accomplishing a goal
2) The belief is that no crime would take place if the pain from the crime outweighed the potential
gain – thus the punishment has to fit the crime. – And only be severe enough to deter that
3) The focus is on the act, or the crime, and not the individual
Cesare Beccaria – wrote essays on crime and punishment
- Contained his philosophy of punishment
- Individuals make rational choices and the use of punishment is a form of deterrence
- However the only exception is mitigating circumstances( age, mental capacity) – believed to
reduce the impact of free will on behaviour
- Thus, with mitigating circumstances or whatever, the punishment may need to be adjusted
- He also argues that the legitimacy of punishment is a result of the social contract (laws based on
principle of utilitarianism) Basically to live in groups certain individuals have to give up a certain
autonomy, in other words, freedom.
- Therefore, in return the government makes laws based on utilitarianism – that is laws that are
made to achieve the greatest happiness of the greatest number of ppl
- Fundamentally important is that all people are thought to possess the ability to reason (all
actions are rational)
- He argues that punishment should be based on the degree of harm causes, rather than on
criminal intent or motivation.
- Purpose of punishment is to be deterrence, not retribution: punishment is viewed as a tool to
- He thought capital punishment was wrong
- The punishment should outweigh the benefits that the individual receives when committing the
- An introduction to the principles of moral legislation
- MAIN PRINCIPLE: all parts of human nature are based on two things: pain and pleasure
- Punishment: the pain should outweigh the pleasure that drives from that action
- Ideas based on the concept of utility, to achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number
- His approach to crime prevention is hedonistic calculus: to reduce crime, the pain society
assigns for committing a crime must outweigh the pleasure gained from that criminal activity
- Against strict punishment – has to be swift and certain
- Argued that punishment can be calculated in terms of intensity, duration, certainty, and
immediacy in time.
The calculation of pain from punishment is based on three things:
1) Experience with criminal punishment – in other words – prior record
2) Knowledge of punishments imposed by the law for certain types of behaviour – ignorance of law
is not a defence
3) Awareness of what punishment has been given to apprehended offenders in the past
Neoclassical theory: punishment should not vary by the circumstances or characteristics of the offender
except in cases of mitigating circumstances
Week 2 - deterrence and rational choice part i. The classical theories are a foundation of deterrence and rational choice, and explanation of criminal behaviour. Choice theory: believes that youth engage in delinquent behaviour after weighing the consequences and benefits of their actions. They think that their action will be more beneficial rather than costly. The decision making process can be influenced if there is a greater likelihood of being punished for the behaviour. Certainty of punishment changes the likelihood of committing a delinquent act. Prior to the enlightenment we relied on spiritual explanation. Developed a freedom of choice, free will and rationality. Free will: freedom to make personal behavioural choices unencumbered by external factors. Crime as a particular individual form of evil and as a moral wrongdoing that is fed by personal choice. Causes of crime lie between the individual offender. Motivation: self interest and subject the responsibilities for their actions.