A Model of the Deterrence Process

  • Ross Homel
Part of the Research in Criminology book series (RESEARCH CRIM.)


According to the classical doctrine of deterrence, which is generally traced to the writings of the 18th-century utilitarian philosophers Bentham and Beccaria, “The rate for a particular type of crime varies inversely with the celerity, certainty, and severity of punishments of that type of crime” (Gibbs, 1975, p. 5). Thus, it is argued that if punishment for drinking and driving in a jurisdiction is swift, sure, and tough, the rate of occurrence of the offense will be correspondingly low. From this perspective, the beauty of RBT is that it should influence the variable which historically has been regarded as the most important, namely the certainty of punishment. After all, if any motorist at any time can be breath-tested, the potential drink-driver, no matter how skilled he believes he is in avoiding detection when over the limit, will have cause to think twice before actually committing the offense. In the same way, it is argued, the convicted offender who has suffered a severe punishment, perhaps a long period of license disqualification or even imprisonment, will have reason to reflect at leisure on his experience and on the futility of further malefactions.


Utility Theory Prospect Theory Legal Sanction Legal Punishment General Deterrence 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ross Homel
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Behavioural SciencesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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