The Deterrence Theory Hypothesis
Deterrence theory suggests that people are accustomed to obey the law because of fear of punishment. For instance, most people are afraid of drunken driving because of the fear of receiving a ticket. Further, the theory suggests that if the chances of one being caught when committing a crime are low then the person has a higher likelihood of committing the crime. Through the increase of certainty of punishment, potential offenders are deterred by the risk of apprehension. Punishment therefore, influences the potential behavior of offenders who weigh the consequences of their actions and severity of punishment. Severe punishment of offenders can therefore deter other offenders from committing crime. Deterrence theory can be both general and specific deterrence.
Several studies have been conducted to test the validity of the deterrence theory of criminal behavior. The hypothesis in these studies is to evaluate whether or not deterrence can reduce crime rates. One particular survey focused on the effects on death penalty in deterring crime. The survey was targeted on fellows of the American Society of Criminology who had won the Southerland Award between 1997 and 2009. The main variable of the study was the effect of death penalty and whether the abolishment of death penalty in some states will affect the rate of murders. The survey had twelve questions that the respondents were supposed to answer. Each fellow was given a questionnaire and 84% of him respondent. The independent variable from the survey stabled that 79% of the respondents did not agree with the deterrent effect. The dependent variable from the survey therefore, suggests that the death penalty does not deter crime nor reduce the murder rates in the states where it was withdrawn (Radelet & Lacock, 2009).