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Objective and Perceptual Properties of Legal Punishment and the Deterrence Doctrine

Maynard L. Erickson and Jack P. Gibbs
Social Problems
Vol. 25, No. 3 (Feb., 1978), pp. 253-264
DOI: 10.2307/800063
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/800063
Page Count: 12
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Objective and Perceptual Properties of Legal Punishment and the Deterrence Doctrine
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Abstract

While most previous deterrence investigations examine the relation between the objective probability of arrest or imprisonment and the official crime rate among states or counties, the present research examined the same relation among ten types of crimes in the same jurisdiction--Tucson, Arizona. We also consider the public perception of the certainty of arrest for eacy type of crime, and the public disapproval of each type of crime is introduced as a control variable. Consistent with two basic premises of the deterrence doctrine, the crime rate varies inversely with both the objective certainty of arrest and the perceived certainty. However, none of the relations are more than moderately close. Contrary to the premises of the deterrence doctrine, the findings indicate that the objective certainty of punishment is not related to the crime rate through perceived certainty. No less important, when the social condemnation of crime is controlled, there is no significant relation between the perceived certainty of punishment and the crime rate.

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