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Learning From the Limitations of Deterrence Research (From Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, Volume 37, P 279-312, 2008, Michael Tonry, ed. - See NCJ-242161)

NCJ Number
Michael Tonry
Date Published
34 pages
This essay examines deterrence in the criminal justice system.
Public policy and scientific knowledge concerning deterrence have long been marching in different directions. Despite the proliferation of three-strikes, mandatory minimum, and concealed weapons laws and retention of capital punishment in 37 States, there is little credible evidence that changes to sanctions affect crime rates, and there is no credible evidence that capital punishment deters better than life sentences or that allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters at all. There is evidence that changes in enforcement and sanctions can affects some kinds of behavior - for examples, tax compliance, speeding, illegal parking - and there are plausible grounds for believing that other deterrable behavior can be identified. Doing so will require fine-grained studies that take account of offender characteristics and perceptions, offending situations, and whether and how new enforcement strategies and sanctions systems are implemented. (Published Abstract)