Chapter 2 (Pg. 18-29)
From Classical Theory to Deterrence Research
During the 1800s, the naturalistic approach of classical criminology became the basis for virtually all criminal justice
systems in the world
Gibbs published the first study that attempted to test deterrence hypothesis
o He defined the certainty of punishment as the ratio between the number of admissions to state prisons for a
given crime and the number of those crimes known to the police in the prior year.
o Severity was defined as the mean number of months served by all persons convicted of a given crime who
were in prison in that year.
o He found that the greater certainty and severity of imprisonments was associated with fewer homicides in the
fifty states for the 1960
o Concluded that homicide may be deterred by both the certainty and severity of imprisonment
Tittle – the certainty of imprisonment deters crime, but severity only deters crime when certainty is high
o Chiricos & Waldo – results on certainty could be explained by variations in police record-keeping
If police handle cases information without making an official record, then that jurisdiction has lower
official crime rates and greater certainty of imprisonment (because the more serious offenses are
recorded and those more likely to result in imprisonment)
If police meticulously make official records then that jurisdiction will have higher official crime rates
but less certainty (because many of the criminal events won’t result in imprisonment)
Glaser & Zeigler – challenged Gibbs’ “that increased imprisonment deters homicide”
o They pointed out that death penalty states have higher murder rates, but murderers in death penalty states
who are not executed serve shorter prison sentences than do murderers in non-death penalty states.
Shorter prison sentences and higher murder rates (in death penalty states)
Longer prison sentences and lower murder rates (in non-death penalty states)
o Argued it is unlikely that longer prison sentences deter homicide while the death penalty does not deter it
1998 Nagin – the evidence for a substantial effect is much firmer than it was two decades ago and that research on
deterrence has evolved into three distinctive and largely disconnected literatures
Three Types of Deterrence Research
1. Looks at the effects of policies that target specific crimes in specific places, such as police crackdowns on drug markets,
drunk driving, disorderly conduct, and illegal gun usage.
Initial deterrence decay – these policies generally achieve an initial deterrent effect but this effect tends to
deteriorate rather quickly
Probably occurs because potential offenders learn through trial and error that they had overestimated
the certainty of getting caught at the beginning of the crackdown
Residual deterrence - the deterrent effect often persists after the crackdown has ended.
Likely persists because it takes a while for offenders to concludes that ‘it is once again ‘safe’ to offend’
2. A distinction between objective risks and the perception of these risks by potential offenders (Sherman)
Perceptual deterrence studies – people we asked about their perceptions of the risks of being punished for
specific offenses and about whether they actually committed or intended to commit these offenses.
Did this study longitudinal and found there is little or no deterrent effect associated with the
perception of risk
Others argued the study must be done closer in time to decision to offend because perceptions of risk
are highly situation specific.
Scenario research produced deterrence-like associations between perceptions of risk and the
reported likelihood of offending.
Nagin concluded – a consensus has emerged among perceptual deterrence researchers that the negative
association between sanction risk perceptions and offending behaviour or intentions is measure deterrence.
Several major findings have emerged from these studies
Certainty appears to be a significantly better predictor of deterrence than severity, and both
appear to be better predictors than celerity (the swiftness of punishment)
People may be deterred from crime by a possible loss of job, friends, or reputation extra-
legal consequences can have as great a deterrent effect as legal consequences
Perceptions of risk may be impacted by one’s prior experiences in the criminal justice system. o Pogarsky & Piquero – there is a ‘resetting effect’ in which offenders lower their
perceived certainty of punishment after they actually are punished, on the basis of the
reasoning that once you have been caught, you are less likely to be caught again.
Occurs with low-rate offenders.
But not with high-rate offenders because they do not consider the certainty of
punishment in their decision making.
3. Looks at criminal justice policies in different jurisdictions and at the crime rates associated with these policies to see if
there is a deterrent effect
Deterrence hypothesis suggests that jurisdictions with more police officers should have less crime – but studies
have found rather than the more police offers the more crime reported
More crime apparently causes more police, so it is difficult to determine whether more police cause
Levitt – used electoral cycle and the number of firefighters and other municipal workers as instrumental
variables in attempting to demonstrate the effect of police on crime.
These instrumental variables are highly correlated with the number of police
Concluded that adding a sworn police officer results in decrease of violent and property crimes.
The deterrence hypothesis suggests that states with the death penalty should have lower homicide rates than
states without the death penalty
However, it is opposite – States with the death penalty have substantially higher murder rates than do
states without it.
Most likely because death penalty is implement in jurisdictions that have high murder rates
Problem is there are two directions of causation: high murder rates apparently cause the
death penalty, so it is difficult to determine whether the death penalty caused lower murder
Most criminologists have concluded that the death penalty does not reduce violent crime, nor does it
have the potential to do so.
Some say the death penalty increases homicide
The higher levels of homicide in death penalty jurisdictions are party generated by the death
penalty itself t