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Preventing Crime With Rational Theory

Crime is generally interpreted as a negative aspect that society has bred from social deviation and inequality of income, among several other aspects. Crime can be prevented by numerous measures, however the common deterrence routine is not effective (for further examination, see “The Rational Criminal”). The common fallacy in crime reduction policies that are implemented is these procedures inherently assume that the criminal is an irrational person, making it so that the most logical conclusion to prevent crime is issuing consequences to offenders after the crime is committed. The effectiveness of these types of policy implementations are holed with illogical assumptions, false suppositions, and negative objective outcome. The criminal is a logical and sensible person when faced with choice, meaning there exists a cost/benefit analysis within the criminal in relation to the differing possible outcomes. As stated in “The Rational Criminal”, irrational criminal theory believes that the person that commits the crime is sick, the same way a diseased person is ill. We treat ill people by quaranting and treating them in a hospital or other rehabilitation center, and this is the identical technique that we should treat our criminals. Our prisons have never been fuller though, and our justice system has never been mocked by other foreign countries in such magnitude. If we embrace rational criminal theory, the issue is simply prevention.

Using Rational Criminal Theory, which is solidified in fact and concrete thought proven in multiple models, we can derive policies that would cause a shift in the amount of crime (assuming population is kept relatively constant). A criminal executes a cost/benefit analysis preemptive to committing a crime, judging whether the accumulated payoff exceeds the possible incarceration and/or the possible amount of remuneration gained from legal means.

Expected Value Function

EL = Ps * Po

Expected Risk Function

Pi = Pa * Pp

Policies would only need to reallocate so that our equation worked out so that the costs are prohibitive, then crime would then not be an attractive and lucrative option.

(EL = Ps * Po) < (Pi = Pa * Pp)

Our main concern by implementing this theory is to stop crime from the start, by instituting methods that embrace prevention, not punishment.

By establishing a policy formulated around prevention we can derive a real, actual strategy that will not only be concrete in theory, but will lead to genuine positive conclusions. The most obvious method would be education and integration of accepted societal behaviors while the mind is still impressionable. However, with the failing of such programs in the past such as D.A.R.E., unfortunately this method is not so consented to. Education can slant deviant behavior and help to influence legal behavior, however environmental factors are significantly considerable, almost negating the impact of the education.

Policy must target those who are currently deemed by society as social deviants, specifically the ones presently in some stage of the correctional system. Focusing our primary attention on the imprisoned populations allows us to implement prevention policies afterwards, preventing increasing prison populace. Alternatively, both types of policies could be sought, which would be the most efficient, however would require a significant amount of funding.

Firstly, the actual prison building concept, the idea of housing inmates of various criminal backgrounds in a singular area, needs to be revamped. Research has proven in the past that most prison inmates have some prior records, and congregating with other convicted felons once a release is issued is around 63% (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1989). Rehabilitation needs to be implemented in secure, customary environmental situations. Removing the other atmospheric factors that would otherwise disturb the rehabilitation process, such as other inmates, loss of luxuries, and a complete shift in lifestyle, allows a development that would not be possible in a “normal” prison scenario. By using prisons, we are just making the prisoner feel objectified; they are no longer an individual, but rather a case or number. Personal surroundings and normal environments provide a setting that would procure the most rehabilitative growth for a “social deviant.”

Secondly, it possible a prisoner does not adept well to rehabilitation in a normal setting. This is not exceptional, some people have extremities that cause malicious behavior that requires institutionalization. In this case, a policy should be implemented so that when the prisoner is deemed fit to enter society again, there has to be accountability taken by the person who signs the release of the prisoner. Ultimately, they are the responsible party for the person. A person that signs a release should therefore be punished if another crime is performed by the person they release, a very minor consequence. Perhaps something like a loss in gross take home pay would be an effective deterrent that would make people choose logical decisions when deciding to sign on the release of someone that might be inapt to enter society.

Thirdly, make prisons their own productive entity that is responsible for itself. Instead of having tax revenue going to fund inmates who do very modest industrious activity, make the prison a virtual urban center. If the prison is subsidized by itself, there will be an incentive to work by inmates, conditions are funded the people that they affect, and there is a vast release of funding which can be put to more productive use. Basically, maintenance would be prison generated. This could ultimately lead to outside business options could be explored, making the prison system a profit generating business rather than a governmental liability.

Fourthly, the death penalty has been an issue of constant moral and ethical debate in modern criminal theory circles for years, however remaining a mirage. The principal contention against capital punishment deals with ethical issues, as well as human error (people executed, then later found to be innocent).

If a person is so endowed in a lifestyle pattered with aspects that could be interpreted as net burden to humanity, then execution seems the most favorable reasoning. Advocates against capital punishment point out cases where a person has been declared of a crime, but were later found innocent for an assortment of reasons. If I serve forty years in a penitentiary, I can’t ask the state for that forty years back. It is a problem within the justice system, these errors should not be used to advocate against capital punishment as a whole. If there are errors directly related to capital punishment, then there is a basis for an argument.

After some time, capital punishment will just become another method of prevention theory, causing that equation that decides a rational criminal’s decision to be substantially larger on the cost side. The famous quote is that “one thousand people should be set free rather than one innocent man dies.” This is clearly based off the archaic policies that focus on punishment. It would be more efficient in terms of future crime rates if a singular person died rather than releasing one thousand convicted felons.

We also need to apply direct methods (methods that directly influence some variable) to the rational decision equation.

(EL = Ps * Po) (Pi = Pa * Pp) so that we can trigger the equation

EL = Ps * Po < Pi = Pa * Pp, increasing the probability of prevention.

Approaching this equation, we can derive that we could either decrease the payoff, or increase the possibility of incarceration time and/or the possible amount of remuneration gained from legal means. Either way it increases the value of the function on the right, increasing the aggregate possibility of prevention.

By decreasing Po, we decrease expected benefit, ideally the criminal will take into consideration alternative legal activities.

You could make the crime a more difficult endeavor (increasing security or something of that nature), which would in turn cause an increase of probability of incarceration, Pp.

We could also make legal opportunities a more beneficial option for the criminal, there have been studies which have empirically concluded that there is an inverse relationship between employment and crime rates (Grogger, 1994). As many criminals tend to have little education, more lower skilled jobs should be created, increasing legal opportunity. Also, by formulating a more skilled work class that would generate higher incomes, the crime rate would in turn likely decrease by a substantial amount. Lastly, we could alternatively try to affect Pa and/or Pp. We would have to increase the arrest rate and/or the probability of being sentenced to prison in some significant amount. By doing this, expected payoff will drop, causing the criminal to seek alternative options.


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