Dangerous Liaison? Rational Choice Theory as the Basis for Correctional Intervention: Francis T. Cullen, Travis C. Pratt, Sharon Levrant Miceli, and Melissa M. Moon
R ational choice theory has shaken up traditional criminology in important ways. It has questioned the image of offenders as mere vessels for criminogenic variables that propel them to break the
Their rejection of rehabilitation also rests on two interrelated views (Luksetich and White 1982). First, by embracing the premise of rational choice, they "assume that offenders do not commit crimes because they are abnormal. They commit crimes because their expected benefits and costsnot their behavior-differ from non-offenders" (Luksetich and White 1982, 164-165). Because offenders are not different, there is nothing in them to fix. "Efforts at rehabilitating offenders are therefore wasted" (p. 165). Second, even if people differ in the propensities to offend, "the problem runs much deeper. Rehabilitation essentially involves altering a person's values .... This is extremely difficult" (p. 71). In contrast, manipulating costs-that is, legal punishments-is assumed to be an easier task and thus a more pragmatic approach to crime control. Thus, "one reason why economists stress altering the expected costs and benefits so heavily is a belief that these can be altered much more easily than the individual's basic value system" (p. 71).