chapter  11
4 Pages

Listening to Lysistrata

We began with the commonsense notion that costs attached to actions ought to reduce those actions. We also end there. Deterrence is at root a simple idea.Much of the work here has been to reclaim that simple, commonsense idea from a rather highly stylized and bounded set of conventions that has over time come to characterize both theoretical treatments and practical applications of deterrence. That reclamation is both liberating and intriguing. We can see, from these explorations, that it is what matters to offenders-

not what matters to those designing deterrence regimes, and not what those designers think matters to offenders-that matters in deterrence. This core fact is universally acknowledged in deterrence theory, and then almost always promptly forgotten in practice. Once we remember it and take it seriously, it has a number of simple, self-evident, but profound implications. It means that if offenders do not know about the sanctions they face, those

sanctions cannot matter. We know beyond question that offenders very often do not know the sanctions they face. It can be a remarkably simple matter to tell them. This alone could transform the way we practice deterrence. It means that we should strive to provide the sanctions that matter to

offenders. Even within the range of formal sanctions, there is no reason to think that our ordering of seriousness matches those of offenders. A week of curfew imposed today may mean more than life in prison imposed next year. A tenyear prison sentence may mean no more than a one-year sentence. This ordering is very likely different for different sorts of offenders and in different sorts of settings. These things are not only true but entirely researchable. We can, and should-both as scholars and as practitioners-figure this out and apply it. It means that it is not only formal sanctions that matter to offenders.

Everything we know tells us, in fact, that it is formal sanctions that matter least to offenders. Their own ideas about right and wrong matter most; the ideas of those they care about and respect matter more. We can explore both of those domains, and we demonstrably have tools with which to intervene in them. Nearly all of us grew up more afraid of our mothers than of the police. If the police cannot get the attention of the streets, it would make sense to organize the mothers to do it. As we have seen, this is in no way implausible.