Sociology Index


Incapacitation, Three Strikes law

General deterrence as used in criminal justice, refers to crime prevention achieved through instilling fear in the general population through the punishment of offenders.

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.

The focus is not on the individual actor. The individual actor receives punishment in public view in order to deter other individuals from deviance in the future. General deterrence theory focuses on reducing the probability of deviance in the general population.

General deterrence can be defined as the impact of the threat of legal punishment on the public at large. Specific deterrence can be seen as the impact of the actual legal punishment on those who are apprehended.

Thus, 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. Specific deterrence results from actual experiences with detection, prosecution, and punishment of offenders.

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.

A Reconceptualization of General and Specific Deterrence 
The distinction between general 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 and specific deterrence, and apply it to several current controversies in the deterrence literature.

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. Most deterrence and bargaining studies have focused on the crises of immediate deterrence partly because of the typical selection bias problems in identifying deterrence success and failures. Moreover, 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. The test controls for a possible confounding effect of factors such as interests and capabilities and is a hard test for the reputation argument. With our least-likely research design for reputational theory, we expect any confirmatory findings for the reputational effects to demonstrate strong validity. 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.