Sociology Index


Specific deterrence as used in criminal justice, refers to crime prevention achieved through instilling fear in the specific individual being punished. Specific deterrence refrains or prevents specific individual being from future violation of the law. Specific deterrence is also referred to as individual deterrence. Three Strikes law mandate state courts to impose harsher sentences on habitual offenders who are convicted of three or more serious criminal offenses. Traffic law enforcement influences driving behaviour through two processes: general deterrence and specific deterrence.

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. 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.

A Reconceptualization of General and Specific Deterrence - MARK C. STAFFORD, MARK WARR. 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 evidence 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. The authors propose a reconceptualization of general and specific deterrence, and apply it to several current controversies in the deterrence literature.

Specific Deterrence and Sentence Length - The Case of Drunk Drivers - MICHAEL WEINRATH, University of Winnipeg, JOHN GARTRELL, University of Alberta 
Researchers have assessed the effect of longer prison sentences by conducting aggregate-level studies of general deterrence. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the specific deterrent effects of longer custody sentences on individual offenders. The authors evaluated the effect of sentence length on drunk driving recidivism by using official records in a retrospective research design. The authors observed that sentence length exerted consistent deterrent effects on repeat drunk driving, even for chronic offenders. Shorter sentences were less effective in discouraging drunk driving criminal recidivism, while sentences longer than 6 months did not produce additional benefits.

Reconceptualizing Deterrence: An Empirical Test of Personal and Vicarious Experiences 
Stafford and Warr (1993) presented a reconceptualization of the general deterrence and specific deterrence doctrines where general deterrence is taken to be the result of persons' vicarious experiences. Such vicarious experiences include, among other things, knowledge of the criminal activity of others and the consequences or lack of consequences of that activity. Specific deterrence is taken to be the result of persons' own personal experiences. In their reconceptualized deterrence theory, persons may concurrently be subject to both general and specific deterrent effects, some persons may be affected more by one type of deterrence than the other, and the two types of deterrent effects may reinforce one another. They argue that their version of specific deterrence theory promises some insight into current controversies in the literature. The authors first review and expand Stafford and Warr's reconceptualization of specific deterrence, and then subject some central hypothesis to empirical test.

Parole as Institutional Control: A Test of Specific Deterrence and Offender Misconduct 
Jon L. Proctor, Michael Pease, Westfield State College 
The use of parole as an institutional control mechanism is designed to reward inmate conformity with early release and punish nonconformity with continued confinement. Although much research has examined factors affecting parole board decisions, little research has focused on the control function of the parole decision. The present study, using specific deterrence theory, analyzes 233 offenders at the offender board review to determine the impact of the board's decision on offender misconduct. Results show lower rates of postreview misconduct for offenders denied parole hearings compared to offenders granted parole hearings. Deterrence was strongest for high- and medium-rate offenders who were denied parole hearings. Misconduct also decreased for high-rate offenders who were granted parole hearings.

Directed By: Professor Shawn D. Bushway, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Abstract: The guidelines specify that at age 26 an offender's juvenile record is discounted from the calculations, resulting in a lower sentencing grid placement and a shorter sentence. I examine in depth the appropriateness of this treatment rule as an instrumental variable for research and find that it is an effective instrument. The study also examines preliminary results produced by using an instrumental variable to estimate a relationship between sentence severity and recidivism. The use of instrumental variables corrects for the selection bias present in other studies in this area by allowing me to compare individuals affected by the treatment rule.

Specific deterrence and the DUI offender: The impact of a decade of reform
Kingsnorth, Rodney; Alvis, Lisa; Gavia, Glori
Abstract: Using a random sample of 1,231 cases from 1980, 1984, and 1988, this paper analyzes the relationship between increasing severity of penalties for misdemeanor driving under the influence offenders and recidivism rates over a 24-month follow-up period. In contrast to other jurisdictions reported in the literature, legal reform mandating increased penalties was implemented rigorously by the judicial community. No associated decrease in recidivism rates over the study period could be established, however. It is hypothesized that this result may reflect either the absence of policies increasing the certainty of punishment or the structure of DUI punishments, which permits the driving under the influence offender to choose among alternative sanctions and thus neutralizes the severity of punishment. An extremely strong relationship was observed between socioeconomic status and defendant's choice of sanction.

Does Imprisonment Create Specific Deterrence? Empirical Analysis of Recidivism of Finnish Prisoners - Anssi Keinanen and Tuukka Saarimaa, Department of Business and Economics, University of Joensuu
Abstract: In this paper we study the specific deterrence effects of imprisonment. We model the probability of recidivism of Finnish convicts who were released from prison followed for four years after their release by estimating a logistic regression analysis model. We find that the probability of recidivism reduces with age. This is true for both men and women, although for women the pattern is less clear. According to our findings, the number of past prison sentences clearly increased the probability of recidivism, and furthermore, the duration of last prison spell seemed to have no effect on the probability of recidivism.

Judges in the punitive juvenile court: Organizational, career and ideological influences on sanctioning orientation - Bazemore, Gordon; Feder, Lynette
Abstract: Descriptive findings indicate strong support for both incapacitation and specific deterrence ideologies, and somewhat weaker commitment to retributive motivations for punishing juvenile offenders. In an effort to account for variation in judges' sanctioning attitudes, we compared three alternative explanatory models: organizational environment, individual experiences importation, and ideological influences. Multiple regression results failed to establish strong support for any of these models. One independent variable, however, victim emphasis, exerted a strong negative effect on retributive orientation and support for the incapacitation goal, but a moderate positive influence on specific deterrence.