Deterrence is the process of discouraging wrongdoers from committing offenses in the future. There are two levels of deterrence, namely general and individual deterrence. One is focused on individual offenders, while another is focused on all offenders. Individual deterrence focuses on discouraging an offender from committing an offense again, while general deterrence focuses on discouraging all the criminals or anyone who wants to engage in criminal activity from doing so. Many sentencing commissions have been dwelling more on the specific deterrence. According to the Canadian sentencing commission, specific deterrence is usually affected by many factors, such as the rates of repeating offense by the offenders.
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Specific deterrence has been continually used as a justification for punishment for offenders to discourage them from repeating the offense. This deterrence is usually sometimes very effective because the offender will get a very sharp punishment even though short, but it is very expensive because it is focused on an individual offender. General deterrence, on the other hand, is more practiced, and it is usually used for very severe crimes such as crimes of sexual assault, crimes of violence that cause bodily harm, and robbery.
Judges are usually advised to give general deterrence to such crimes, and in a case where their sentences do not give general deterrence, it is usually overruled by the courts of appeal. General deterrence usually involves a lot of legal sanctions being imposed. These sanctions are very costly, and therefore there is usually no reason to believe that the sanctions will deter all the crimes. The Canadian sentencing commission discredited general deterrence by stating that there is no guarantee that making an example out of a particular offender will have an impact on other potential offenders.
In the article, the ineffectiveness of general deterrence has been explained. It states that deterrence is based on rational decision making. It states that someone will do something after weighing its benefits and limitations. Severe crime offenders however do not follow this conviction. They engage in crimes because of their emotions such as anger and therefore deterrence is not a limitation to them engaging in the crime again. Change in the severity of penalties imposed on criminals does not guarantee reduction in rates of crime for example removing televisions from the cells of criminals will not necessarily reduce the rate of crimes as Canadians believe.
According to Cesare Beccaria who also championed for general deterrence agreed with the fact that making punishments brutal will not necessarily reduce crime rates. He argues that imposing savage punishments will make the public think that the justice system is also savage and this would undermine the effect of criminal prosecutions because there will be no difference between the criminals and the justice system.
The savage punishments can also make courts to rebel by finding other ways to punish the criminals or not to convict criminals at all. For general deterrence to be effective practically, there has to be certainty of punishment and this has led to fully stocked prison facilities with armed police. The punishments also have to be swift for general deterrence to work. For general deterrence to be effective in practice, it should not have several conditions because it will give the public a lot of expectations that it might not be able to fulfill. General deterrence however usually comes with certain conditions to it that will make the whole sentence very complex.