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
Becker, Gary S.: Punishment, Human Capital, and Crime
Taryn N. Valpey
Academic discussions on crime in the 1950s and 1960s centered on factors such as mental illness, social oppression, and inequality. The trumpeting of these potential causes of crime, among others, led to shifts in social policy, including the expansion of rights of the criminal population. Toward the latter part of the 1960s, a major challenge to mainstream criminological thought and to the social policies emerging as a result was set forth by Gary S. Becker, a prominent figure in the field of economics. He argued that focusing on issues such as social oppression and mental illness both cultivated and supported an approach to criminal behavior that reduced accountability—the apprehension and conviction of offenders—and thus ultimately compromised the safety of law-abiding citizens (Becker, 1993). In his groundbreaking contribution to criminology, Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach , Becker applied basic economic theory to crime and sanctions. Rejecting the notion that criminals ...