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General deterrence as used in criminal justice, refers to crime prevention achieved through instilling fear in the general population through the punishment of offenders. General deterrence can be defined as the impact of the threat of legal punishment on the public at large. Law enforcement influences behavior through general deterrence and specific deterrence.

Law enforcement generally aims at general deterrence, which is achieved by increasing the subjective risk of apprehension. General deterrence focuses on general prevention of crime by highlighting examples of specific deviant behavior.

General deterrence theory focuses on reducing the probability of deviance in the general population. Three Strikes law mandate state courts to impose harsher sentences on habitual offenders. Selective Incapacitation is provided for under dangerous offender legislation. General deterrence can be defined as the impact of the threat of legal punishment on the public at large. General deterrence results from the perception of the public that laws are enforced and that there is a risk of detection and punishment when laws are violated. General deterrence focuses on future behaviors, preventing individuals from engaging in crime or deviant by impacting their rational decision making process. Specific deterrence focuses on punishing known deviants in order to prevent them from repeat violation of the specific norms they have broken.

The Role of Reputation in General Deterrence
Clare, Joe. and Danilovic, Vesna. - Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ISA's 49th ANNUAL CONVENTION, BRIDGING MULTIPLE DIVIDES.
Abstract: In our paper, we theoretically and empirically examine success and failure in general deterrence. Our focus is on another variable reputation for past behavior and its potential impact on general deterrence outcomes. We discuss several related issues such as multiple audiences that have generally been conflated and outline one of the possible alternatives to disentangle these issues for a better understanding of general deterrence success. We then test with emperical evidence the arguments with updated historical data on the cases of general deterrence failures among enduring rivals. Results do provide some, but partial and conditional, support for reputation for past behavior and discuss findings in the context of general deterrence theory, reputational and signaling arguments, and selection effects in analyzing bargaining success.

A Reconceptualization of General Deterrence and Specific Deterrence 
The distinction between general deterrence and specific deterrence is widely recognized and accepted by deterrence researchers, and is used commonly to classify deterrence studies. However, the logical and empirical grounds for the distinction are not as clear as they might appear, and the conventional conception has done more to obfuscate than to clarify the deterrence process. Following a discussion of these issues, the authors propose a reconceptualization of general deterrence and specific deterrence, and apply it to several current controversies in the deterrence literature.