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Deterrence theory

Deterrence  occurs when people refrain from crime because of fear of legal punishment. Whereas specific deterrence pertains to people who have personally experienced legal punishment, general deterrence involves people who have observed otherwise learned about others punishment experiences. The relevant properties of legal punishment for deterrence theory are certainty, severity and celerity with certainty being the probability that the type of crime will be legally punished. Severity  being the punishment’s magnitude and celerity being its swiftness. The actions of legal officials affect the actual certainty severity and celerity of legal punishment. However there is a distinction between actual legal punishments and people’s perceptions of them which is important because, according to deterrence theory, actual legal punishment deter only to the extent that people perceive them as certain, severe and celeritous. The distinction between actual and perceived punishment is reflected in these three deterrence propositions 

  1. The greater the actual certainty ,severity and celerity of legal punishment for a type of crime, the greater the perceived certainty, severity and celerity of legal punishment for that crime. 
  2. The greater the perceived certainty, severity and celerity of legal punishment for a type of crime, the less the rate of that crime. 
  3. The greater the actual certainty, severity and celerity of punishment for a type of crime, less the rate of that crime. 

 

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