Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: November 23, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412959193 | Print ISBN: 9781412959186 | Online ISBN: 9781412959193| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
General Deterrence Theory
The notion of general deterrence holds that crime rates of populations are held down by the threat of generalized punishments. The probabilities of such punishments include those based on perceptions and reality. However, people's perceptions may not be based on reality but on other sources such as sensational media coverage of crime and punishment. Punishments may include arrest and jail time as well as probation, community service, tethering, and fines. Three characteristics of a punishment need to be at an optimal level in order for the threat of a punishment to deter crime: certainty, celerity, and severity. First, punishments must be relatively certain. The exact level of certainty that must be reached in order for punishments to deter crime, and the presence of nonlinear floor and threshold effects, are largely unknown. However, some research suggests that a floor of at least 30 percent of offenders may need to be arrested ...