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Deterrence and Crime

The criminal justice system dispenses justice by apprehending, prosecuting, and punishing individuals who break the law. These activities may also prevent crime by three distinct mechanisms—incapacitation, specific deterrence, and general deterrence. Convicted offenders are often punished with imprisonment. Incapacitation refers to the crimes averted by offenders’ physical isolation during the period of their incarceration. Specific deterrence and general deterrence involve possible behavioral responses. Specific deterrence refers to the reduction in reoffending that is presumed to follow from the experience of being punished. There are many sound reasons for suspecting that the experience of punishment might actually increase reoffending. The threat of punishment might also discourage potential and actual criminals in the general public from committing crime. This effect is known as general deterrence and ...

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