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Criminal Justice System as a Deterrence

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 832 words Published: 26th Jul 2018

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Deterrence is used on individuals who already have a history of offending, but also it prevents potential offenders from committing similar crime. Deterrence is used very often and everyone is aware of it even if they do not they are. People generally known to not commit a crime whether it’s a serious or less serious one, because they know they will be consequences, which could be a fine or time in jail, depending on what form of offence it was. There are two types of deterrence; specific and general. Specific deterrence is when an offender decides not to commit any future crimes. General deterrence is when a person makes a decision to not commit a crime, because they are familiar with the consequences by observing offenders get punished and they do not want to deal with the same thing if they are caught. However there has been many arguments about what is expected to deter other. Some suggest that the best solution is to be setting penalties to outweigh the benefit of committing a crime, but the reality is that people who commit crime are rational thinkers and are responsible for their action. This causes conflict as to whether or not criminals are rational within their actions or whether crime is an act of impulse. The idea of being caught and the idea od spending time in prison should deter potential offenders, therefore prison in some way does deter crime by simply catching offenders, which shows the consequences to those potential ones.

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One of the reasons why deterrence is more limited is understood by viewing the dynamics of criminal justice system. When any crime is committed there is not a certainty of arresting the criminal, and that has an impact on how effective deterrence is, if it was well known fact that police always apprehend the offender not many people who still want to or try to commit any crimes. However there are cases where crimes also serious crimes are not solved and are not followed up by any arrest and conviction, which is why the deterrent outcome of the certainty of punishment is significantly reduced. Evidently, any improvements on making sure that offenders are being arrested would have huge impact on people who may think they will not be convicted for the crimes they commit. Overall many studies across nations confirm that improving the certainty of sentence provides better deterrent result rather than increasing the harshness of punishment. The Institute of Criminology at Cambridge University was ordered by the British Home Office to a write a review of research they have done on big studies of deterrence. They have produced a report in 1999 confirming that “the studies reviewed do not provide a basis for inferring that increasing the severity of sentences generally is capable of enhancing deterrent effects.” Daniel Nagin and Greg Pogarsky, they research concluded that punishment certainty was found to deter crime more than punishment severity. Micro level studies that studied offense rates of particular population, the evidence shows that higher certainty of punishment was linked with decreasing crime. They also have detected that people who know more about crime and punishment are less likely to commit any crime. Different study compared crime and punishment results in the U.S, England and Sweden, however they have failed to discover a consequence for severity. Records of studies shows that certainty of punishment has shown some connection to decreasing of crime statistics, however other studies argue that growing levels of possibility of arrest for serious and minor offences may result in viewing prison as less labelling institution.

Deterrence does not seem to be working as the prison population in England and Wales has almost doubled since 1993. In addition, there is also evidence that most offenders come out of prison and re-offend, however the rates are lower for offenders with long sentences. Statistics published on the Ministry of Justice websites confirm that the proven reoffending rate for adult offenders released from custody between April 2014 and March 2015 was 44.7% and the rate for those released from short sentences has been consistently higher compared to those released from longer sentences. Adults who served sentences of less than 12 months reoffended at a rate of 59.7%, compared to 32.2% for those who served determinate sentences of 12 months or more. The trends for those released from short and long sentences have both remained broadly flat since 2005 and are consistent with the overall trend. That’s form a question in prison really works.

  1. Does prison reduce offending?
  2. Are re-offending rates worse for prisoners than those who receive community sentences?
  3. Does the prison environment improve or hinder the physical, social and emotional well-being of offenders?
  4. Does prison prepare prisoners for life on the outside?


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