chapter  4
2 Pages

Initial reflections: From within the traditional framework

First, it is clear that there is reason to think that deterrence matters a lot. While the failure of deterrence, or more accurately of particular deterrence regimes and policies, is visible all around us-each crime is evidencedeterrence is clearly operating, and might well be made to operate more. Beyond this, specifics are greatly lacking. What constitutes “a lot,” and where its boundaries lie, is very murky. Matters have not advanced much since Cook, over twenty years ago, wrote that the evidence showed only that “a wide variety of crimes are deterrable, and there are no types of crimes which have been demonstrated to be undeterrable.”1 While research has given us a wealth of tantalizing data points, those points fail to cohere into a clear picture of how deterrence is actually operating in the world. Much of our thinking about this in practice returns to the most basic of first principles. Are people rational, or not? Do they care about consequences, or not? Would they commit the crime if a police officer were standing next to them?2