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Crime, Punishment and Personality: Examination of Deterrence Question
Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology
  • William C. Bailey, Cleveland State University
  • Ruth P. Lott, Cuyohoga Community College
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Publication Date
While the presumed deterrent effect of punishment provides the cornerstone of the criminal justice system, it would be a mistake to assume that deterrence is well established in both theory and research. Recognizing the limitations of deterrence investigations, this study examines the relationship between a person's perceptions of punishment and their actual criminal involvement. Most deterrence investigations have focused primarily upon homicide and the death penalty. Although these investigations suggest that the threat of sanctions may have an important deterrent effect, careful examination shows them to suffer from serious theoretical and methodological limitations. Through this study, it was found out that the perceptions of certainty and severity of punishment proved generally unrelated to reported criminal involvement in each offense. For each dimension of punishment the dominant pattern is a very slight negative, or slight positive, correlation between several variables. Moreover, the relationship between perceived severity of both official and unofficial sanctions and reported behavior, was found to be generally unaffected by perceived certainty of apprehension by the police.
Citation Information
Bailey, W. C., & Lott, R. P. (1976). Crime, Punishment and Personality: An Examination of the Deterrence Question. Journal Of Criminal Law & Criminology, 67(1), 99-109.