chapter  7
35 Pages

Reflections II: Amending the deterrence framework

What, then, does all this tell us about how we might address deterrence? Our previous conclusions are underscored. Deterrence does matter a lot. If

deterrence strategies can be made more effective in addressing crime problems that matter to individuals and communities, some of the criminogenic dynamics just sketched might be weakened. The same holds true, of course, for strategies other than deterrence. But deterrence has a special place here because when it is effective, it can operate without other aspects of criminal-justice strategies, such as arrest and conviction, which can themselves be costly both immediately and in the long run. It matters that we understand how offenders think: If the stiffest sanctions we promise are meaningless in practice because previous experience with enforcement has robbed them of all credibility, that is something we had better address. We are right to attend to informal sanctions and, beyond that, to attend to the impact on informal sanctions of formal actions: If our enforcement practices are destroying the prospects that young offenders can ever achieve legitimacy and making the authorities anathema in the eyes of the broader community, that is also something we had better address. We would do well to sort out what seems severe from where offenders stand: If we can reduce gun-carrying among drug dealers as effectively by beefing up probation regimes as by delivering draconian prison sentences, the former would surely be preferable. And the role of information and communication remains central. In line with this, and in addition, there are ways in which it might make sense

to expand the traditional deterrence framework. We might, especially, move from a focus on individual offenders to include groups, networks, places, and other collectivities, and move from a focus on individual offenses to include the criminogenic dynamics that produce patterns of offending and crime problems.

Deterrence theory is rooted in traditions of moral philosophy and economics that concern themselves primarily with individuals and their decisions. Utilitarianism, from which deterrence theory emerged, addresses the