Conservative Theories CC100
Social context – 1970’s
1960’s started out with optimism (Civil rights movement)
o LBJ- He was elected and made the ‘Great Society’
o Cultural Revolution, people started to dress differently, rebellion, etc.
o Warren Court
o Civil Rights Movement
o Increase in drug and violent street crime
o Altamont free concert: Bands would get together and the Hell’s Angels would show up for “free security”
and many people would be killed
o Kent State Shootings: happening in Kent Ohio, involved the shooting of unarmed college students by the
Ohio National Guard. Some of the students that were shot had been protesting the Cambodian Campaign
during the Vietnam war
o Vietnam and Watergate
Classical theory revisited
o Crime was based on choice; all criminals have free will. The punishment should fit the crime.
Re-emergence in 1970’s
Robert Martinson – nothing works
James Q. Wilson wrote a book called Thinking about Crime
Attacked the positivist view that crime results solely from social forces
Mandatory Minimum Sentences
These force judges to deliver fixed sentences to individuals convicted of crime, regardless of culpability or other
o Mandatory 25 year sentence (3 Strikes)
o Any third felony conviction, 2 serious convictions.
o E.g.: stealing a pizza slice
o Increased Court Costs. Most cases are pretty minor. (Whether or not the crime should follow with a
mandatory sentence is in the criminal code)
o $20 Billion additional cost from more people in prison and court costs
o ¼ of inmate population
o There is also no study that shows it actually deters crime, there is little support
Do three strikes laws work?
o Little empirical support for crime reduction effects
o Potential increases in homicide rates
Why don’t they work?
o They’re not a deterrent: low crime-reporting rate, many crimes aren’t reported by police
o Role of alcohol, drugs, mental health. How good is your decision when under the influence?
Certainty of Punishment
E.g.: Individualized deterrence
o Offenders heavily involved in crime are individually warned that their actions are being monitored and
future crime will be dealt with immediately.
o E.g.: Operation Ceasefire (Boston)
Iclicker Question: Which of the following events may have contributed to a shift from labeling theories to the
more conservative deterrence-based perspectives on crime?
o Martinson declares, “nothing works” in his review of correctional programming.
Section II: Rational Choice Theory
Two guys D. Cornish and R.C. Clarke believed crime is the result of deliberate choices made by offenders based
on their calculation of the risks and rewards of these choices. (Rational choice theory)
o People are hedonistic: they look for pleasure. Utilitarian = outweigh pros and cons
The concept of rationality: The decision-making process of determining the opportunities for meeting desired
needs, the potential costs of action, and the anticipated benefit o Rationality:
o Full rationality is not required
o Decision-making process does not have to be sophisticated
o Adequate or accurate information is not needed
Offender Decision making
o Decision-making occurs in two distinct areas
o Involvement decisions
o Event decisions: “where should I go to get this money?” “Should I commit break and enter?”
▪ Easily accessibility, few police patrols, larger gardens, detached house, and patio doors
o Background factors (E.g.: upbringing)
o Previous experience and learning
o Solutions evaluated
o The decision to commit crime is structured by the choice of location, target characteristics, and techniques
available for completion
o Example: crack dealers and avoidance apprehension techniques
▪ Environmental positioning: Popular area where there are not a lot of police and where they can
see every direction. They want to be able to see long distances.
▪ ‘Peep game’
▪ Drug handling techniques (E.g.: stashing)