Deterrence Theory - Free Will

One of the main components of the criminal justice system is the deterrent idea. The main goal of this strategy is to deter people from committing crimes by applying clearly defined penalties and creating a fear of getting discovered and receiving these punishments. (Manzoni and Beccaria 75). Specific and general discouragements are two well-known deterrents. The particular deterrence is designed to dissuade only the one criminal from committing that wrong in the future. Supporters of specific restraint also hold the view that severely punishing offenders will induce them to refrain from offending others in the future. On the other hand, the general deterrent theory is made to stop crime in the overall population. Hence, the nation’s punishment of criminals serves as an example for other individuals in the society who have never been engaged in criminals’ activities (Manzoni and Beccaria 63). The general theory is then meant to inform other persons in the community about the horrors of official sanctions to put them away from criminal activities. This piece of work will discuss deterrent theory as presented by three scholars namely Sherman, Beccaria, and Bentham in their various studies.

Similarities of Bentham and Beccaria Thinking

The deterrent theory has been presented as a principle which focusses on the application of punishment to discourage future offenders from going against the law. Bentham and Beccaria have discussed the deterrent theory, and in their findings, they both conclude that the principle does explain the penalties for any one crime but rather it applies to various offenses (Bentham 25). Beccaria, was an Italian philosopher and the first researcher to develop the deterrent theory in 1760's. Bentham, a pioneering utilitarian later took this theory further in 1789, but he concurred with Beccaria's most findings (Bentham 27).Any person who would follow these two researcher’s guidance in establishing a scheme of punishment would bring happiness to the society since no one would like to commit a crime after following the guidelines. Both philosophers believe in the principle of utility as the guiding moral belief. The principle of utility requires lawgivers to strategize institutions so that they produce the greatest contentment. Beccaria and Bentham believed that the primary way that the criminal justice scheme contributes to the happiness of the individuals in the society is by minimizing the incidences of offenses.

When the offenses in the society are decreased, then most members of the society will be happy knowing that they will meet little or no crimes. They believed that the criminal actions tend to cause maltreatment and hence minimizes the degree of joy in the society. Hence, according to Beccaria and Bentham findings, the degree of happiness and amount of crime are inversely proportional in the sense that when one variable increases, the other decreases and vice versa (Bentham 26).However, the reduction of crimes does not result from anywhere; the lawgivers must set up a good substantive criminal regulation system. The two philosophers agreed that the number of offenses in the society is reduced only when there are rules and regulations in the society. When lawgivers commonly governments set up fair laws for the people, they are more likely to follow those laws than when there is the absence of such regulations. In other words, a substantive law system instills fear in potential lawbreakers hence they will be afraid to commit any crime (Bentham 25). A substantive law system then leads to a situation where all people in the society are happy.

Punishing offenders in the society can minimize crime in several ways. Bentham and Beccaria focus almost exclusively on the discouragement of future criminals. Bentham identifies other manners in which punishment can impact crime rates, but he can follow Beccaria in lying focus on deterrence (Manzoni and Beccaria 76). Discouragement is achieved when people choose to avoid from committing crimes since they are afraid of the sentences they will go through if they offend other people. The standpoint assumed here, in consequence, looks at the disciplinary part of the illegal law as a proclaimed scheme of intimidations that the country makes to the completepopulation(Manzoni and Beccaria 45).If the fears are fruitful individuals, who would not select to commit crimes but choose in its place to be obedient to the law system.


Beccaria and Bentham relate the degree of happiness to the level of crimes in the society. They both agreed that the two variables, the level of happiness among people as well as some crimes are inversely proportional. Any analyst of these two researchers would criticize them since the level of happiness among people is not affected mostly by the level of crime. Economically able people in the society can protect themselves from crimes through building up electric fences around their homes as well as employing security personnel to provide security. Hence, their level of happiness does not primarily rely on some crimes in the society rather it depends on other factors such as money they have earned, who will inherit their possessions among other factors. On the other hand, the degree of happiness of lowly fortunate people in the society does not primarily depend on the level of crimes. Most criminals commit offenses in such of money and other possessions hence they would not target the poor people in the society in most times. Other arguments of these two scholars are good, but also they would have also specified the crimes which reduce the happiness of people with the highest degree. Most people are afraid of criminals who possess guns than those who just pick up your possessions and leave you in good condition.

Sherman’s Research

Lawrence Sherman, a director of research at the police foundation researched on effectiveness of several police reactions to domestic violence calls. In his findings, he discovered that arrest was the most efficient police response(Sherman and Klein 36). The research found out that the criminals assigned to be arrested fewer rates of reoffending than lawbreakers assigned to counseling or those who are temporarily sent away(Sherman and Klein 37). Hence, effective deterrence can only be achieved through arresting offenders than counseling them or temporarily releasing them with bonds. The policy of arresting criminals should be implemented everywhere since it discourages re-offenses than counseling technique.

Importance of Deterrence Theory

The deterrence theory is relevant in the society since it instills fears to potential criminals in the society by letting them know about the punishments they would face if caught committing crimes. The theory hence helps to prevent the instance of crimes in the society(Manzoni and Beccaria 76). Various researchers have done studies on this theory, Beccaria being the first person to study it. The philosophers have agreed that the level of happiness of individuals in the society is determined by some crimes. The theory has been able to make a significant reduction of crimes in the society thus leading to happiness among the people (Manzoni and Beccaria 76).The principles of deterrence state that the certainty of being caught is an infinitely more dominant preventive than the sentence. The theory has further provided that sending an offender to prison is not the best way to reduce crimes rather there are other means of significantly reducing offenses. Hence, the theory has helped to minimize the harsh sentences which were put in place to offenders initially such as murder, life imprisonment, and torture penalties.

Assumptions of the Theory

Deterrence theory was first discovered in the cold war as a nuclear weapon utilization strategy. During the cold war, the principle stated that it is better to prevent a nuclear attack than to physically protect the country from such an assault. The assumptions of deterrence theory are then based on the nuclear weapon strategy of the cold war (Sherman and Klein 35). The theory provides that the decision making concerning nuclear weapons should be rational in the senses that all participants must conduct themselves in a manner that increases their interests. It also assumes that decision-making system is centralized. Each member should make common computations about what has been gained or lost via application of nuclear weapons (Sherman and Klein 38). Actors in a war must believe that the opponent also holds dangerous weapons hence they should take caution. All the assumptions of the deterrent theory are practiced today during designing of laws, punishing offenders and in wars. I think all the factors of a deterrent the theory have been considered in the assumptions.

Works Cited

Bentham, Jeremy. An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation: printed in the year 1780, and now first published. London: T. Payne, 1789.

Manzoni, Alessandro, and Cesare Beccaria. The Column Of Infamy: And, Beccaria, Cesare: of Crimes and Punishments. London: O U P, 1964.

Sherman, Lawrence W, and Jody Klein. Major lawsuits over crime and security: trends and patterns, 1958-1982. College Park, Md: Institute of Criminal Justice and Criminology, University of Maryland, 1984.

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