Perspectives on Punishment
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What are the problems with punishment?
- Leads to resentment (Skinner, 1938)
- More effective if punishment is right after behaviour and occurs consistently (not the case in court proceedings )
- Effects are often temporary
- Must be twinned with reinforcement for more desirable behaviours to be adopted
Why is punishment difficult in practice?
- There are different reinforcers for criminals such as respect and social influence
- Recidivism could be due to people not learning from reinforcement
- Those who offend earlier tend to lead a longer criminal career
- Much of crime goes undetected
- The more successful a criminal, the more discerning
Is corporal punishment a good thing?
- No- Gershoff (2002)
- 88 studies of corporal punishments and behavioural outcomes analysed
- Only one positive outcome -immediate compliance
- Undesirable outcomes included increased adult delinquency and decreased relationship with parents
- Difficult to establish cause and effect (could be a worse child receives more slaps)
What is the function of retribution for criminals?
- Punishment is justified by offender's actions
- Less concerned by future consequences
- Capital punishment is the highest form
What is the function of deterrence for criminals?
- Discourages undesirable behaviours in the future
- Specific deterrence: discourages the individual who is being punished
- General deterrence: prevents others from doing the crime through vicarious reinforcement
- Rational choice theory: the decision to commit crime is based on;
- Certainty- the perceived likelihood of being caught
- Celerity- how quickly they will be punished
- Severity of sanctions (Cornish & Clarke, 1986)
Does deterrence work?
- Perceived risks of offending are reduced with time
- Soon offenders realise they can get away with some crime, this (and seeing others get away with it) decreases certainty
- Many aren't aware of the sanctions for the crimes they are involved in but are presumed to by law enforcement
- Cleck et al, 2005: compared perceptions of crime and punishments to actual levels of arrests, punishment and speed of proceedings
- Found most offenders had virtually no insights into the processes or risks
- E.g Three strikes rule in the US
What was operation ceasefire?
- Boston 1991
- High crime rate in the city and problems with gangs, drugs and murder
- Held forums and explained that they would crack down on entire gangs if one member was caught (followed up and arrested all 20 core members of a gang)
- Gave high profile gangster Freddy Cardoza 15 years for carrying a single round due to his criminal record, other gangsters then realised they were also at risk from this type of arrest. Police handed out fliars to the gangs, explaining his fate
- Brought pillars of the community in who tried to dissuade gangsters from committing crime
- Offered help with training, education counselling etc
- By 1998 murder had fallen by 50% and youth killings by 66%
What is the function of rehabilitation for criminals?
- Less punitive, aimed at making the offender a more productive member of society once more
- Could take the form of anger management, drug therapy or other forms
What is the function of restoration for criminals?
- Focusses on repaying the damage that criminals have caused to their victims
- Try to restore them to a state where they are pre-victimised
What is the function of incapacitation for criminals?
- The most reductionist measure
- Criminals are kept away from the general public and unable to commit crimes
What are the problems with the death penalty?
- Used in 32 US states
- Could occur wrongfully (Claude Jones, 2000 executed for murdering a convenience store owner based on a single strand of hair as evidence. Forensic science wasn't good enough to match the sample to him but they executed him anyway. Turned out the hair belonged to the victim...)
- Could be argued to be inhumane and draconian
- No evidence for it being a good deterrent
- More expensive than life imprisonment without parole
- Donohue & Wolfers (2007), studied murder rate from the 50s
- Found that when abolished, murder rates rose, but remained in a constant flux after reinstatement. This flux was the same for non death penalty states, but those states had significantly lower homicide rates
How can intelligence affect punishment?
- Flynn effect (inflation of IQ) -Flynn (1984)
- Implications for people who might not be mentally capable, when compared to outdated IQ tests they may score higher and cross the threshold IQ for execution -Gresham & Reschly, 2011)
What was the Atkins vs Virginia case?
- August 1996, Daryl Atkins (18) and an accomplice abducted, robbed and murdered an airman
- Atkins had an IQ of 59, mildly retarded according to a forensic psychologist
- Ruled it cruel to execute someone who didnt know why they were being executed
- IQ must be over 70 for execution
What was the case of Darick Walker?
- Convicted of killing 2 people but appealed on the grounds of mental retardation
- Completed several IQ tests, some above and some below the threshold
- He was executed in 2010
What would you like to do?
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