Deterrence Theory

Deterrence theory is an approach to law and regulatory enforcement predicated on the objective of disincentivizing or “deterring” potential offenders from violating laws or regulations. Under a deterrence framework, the objective of enforcement is to achieve a desired degree of compliance with a rule or set of rules, while taking into account the costs of supervision and enforcement. Specifically, public interest deterrence theory posits that the punishments for violations of laws or regulations should be determined based on the estimated societal value of the deterrence impact, both on specific offenders facing a penalty and on all other potential offenders, and on the total costs of enforcement.

Certainty, Severity, and Swiftness of Punishment

Early scholarship in deterrence theory noted that a rational actor deciding whether or not to ...

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