The Evidence for Deterrence

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


In the past 15 years there has been a considerable upsurge in research on deterrence, although there are studies, particularly of recidivism, dating back 50 years or more. The literature falls into five main categories. One category, perhaps the largest, consists of the studies of the marginal specific deterrent impact of sentences imposed by courts, using recidivism as the criterion for success. The earliest and most common approach to the study of general deterrence involved the analysis of crime rates and properties of legal sanctions measured at the level of political jurisdictions. A second type of study of general deterrence, which has achieved prominence in the last decade, is based on a survey methodology and focuses on the relationship between self-reported criminality and perceptions of legal sanctions. General deterrence, particularly of driving offenders, has also been investigated through what are usually called quasi-experimental studies. These studies capitalize on sudden changes in the law and use data, such as traffic crashes, which are not subject to the evidential problems characteristic of crime statistics or survey data. A final category consists of experimental studies, which have been addressed both to specific and general deterrence.


Deterrent Effect Legal Sanction Perceptual Research General Deterrence Interrupted Time Series Analysis 
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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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