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NCJ Number: 211127 Find in a Library
Title: Missing Link in General Deterrence Research
Journal: Criminology  Volume:43  Issue:3  Dated:August 2005  Pages:623-660
Author(s): Gary Kleck; Brion Sever; Spencer Li; Marc Gertz
Date Published: August 2005
Page Count: 38
Sponsoring Agency: Charles E Culpeper Foundation
New York, NY 10017
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study compared urban residents' perceptions of punishment levels for crimes with actual punishment levels in order to determine whether actual punishment levels translated to realistic citizen perceptions of the consequences of crime, thus achieving a deterrent effect.
Abstract: Research on the deterrent effect of punishment has involved macro-level studies of the impact of aggregate punishment levels on crime rates, as well as individual-level studies of the impact of perceived punishment levels on self-reported criminal behavior. The current study addressed the "missing link" in deterrence studies by examining whether higher actual punishment levels translated into an increase in persons' perceived certainty, severity, or swiftness of punishment. Telephone interviews were conducted with 1,500 residents of 54 large urban counties. Respondents were asked questions about their perception of the average certainty, severity, or swiftness of punishment in their county. Interviewers provided a nontechnical definition of the offense type for the punishment at issue. Offenses addressed were criminal homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, and burglary. Respondents were queried about punishments for the preceding 10-year period (1988-98) for these crimes. Researchers obtained data on actual punishment levels for offense types for the same period. None of the five measures of punishment--whether measures of certainty, severity, or swiftness of punishment--showed consistent indications of an effect of actual punishment levels on perceived punishment levels. Across the 4 crime types, there were 20 estimates of this effect. Two were positive and significant, supporting the deterrence doctrine; 1 was significant and negative; and the remaining 17 were not significantly different from zero. These findings raise serious questions about deterrence-based rationales for more punitive crime control policies. 9 tables and 39 references
Main Term(s): Crime prevention planning
Index Term(s): Crime control policies; Deterrence; Deterrence effectiveness; Penalty severity rating; Public Opinion of Corrections; Punishment
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