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Part I: Jail Time and Death Penalty: A Deterrent?
For years many law enforcement agencies have relied on the assumption that jail time or the death penalty serve as adequate deterrents to crime or criminal activity. However multiple studies confirm that jail time and the death penalty are not effective methods alone for deterring criminals. Because of this it is important that law enforcement agents, government officials and community members work together to uncover effective tools for deterring crime and discouraging criminals from repeating crimes after release.
Jail time and the death penalty do not deter crime. Early Gallup Polls conducted in the 1980s and 1990s show that while roughly two thirds of Americans and law enforcement agents support the death penalty, there is inadequate evidence supporting its use as an effective deterrent to crime (Akers & Radelet, 1996). Many assume that the death penalty is legitimate under the assumption that people who commit a crime should pay on a level similar to that of the crime they commit. However, much of capital punishment support rests on the notion that capital punishment is an effective deterrent for crime (Pierce & Radelet, 1991).
While there is some evidence that suggests the death penalty may be an effective deterrent, most of this research is flawed methodologically and conceptually (Akers & Radelet, 1996). Multiple studies support the notion that the death penalty is no more effective than long term imprisonment which also has its shortcomings (Akers & Radelet, 1996). There is in fact "wide consensus among America's top criminologists that scholarly research demonstrates that the death penalty does little to reduce crime rates related to violence" (Adkers & Radelet, 1996:15).
Jail time serves as an equally inefficient deterrent, with most criminals going on to repeat some heinous crimes. There are multiple criminal theories and bodies of research that have addressed deterrence in the past. "Interrupted time series studies" have examined the effects of specific policies and interventions on criminal activity; examples include police "crackdowns" on drug abuse in certain markets (Tonry, 2000: 345). Studies in this area suggest that these interventions may have a temporary affect but not a long lasting one to deter crime. Basically criminals exposed to such situations simply tend to 'lay low' for a period of time and resume activity as usual. Interventions however like this may serve a preliminary deterrent effect, hence when combined with other therapies including possibly intervention may result in more long lasting effects much more efficient than jail time alone for reducing crime rates (Tonry, 2000). These studies do confirm the notion that jail time and death penalty alone are not adequate interventions for deterring criminal activity.
Within the United States roughly five to eight times the number of people per capita are imprisoned than in Western European nations despite similar crime rates; the number of federal and state prisons alone in the U.S. has increased more than 500 percent in the last few decades (Monthly Review, 2001). Many consider the state of prisons in the United States a social crisis of sorts of "the highest magnitude" that needs immediate resolution (Monthly Review, 2001:1). Despite increasingly high incarceration rates little evidence suggests that prisons are actually serving a beneficial purpose, which is to deter crimes among criminals or reduce the rates of recidivism or repeat crimes among offenders (Monthly Review, 2001). That leads us to a discussion on the rapidly increasing rates of crime throughout the nation.
Part II - New Methods of Solving Crime
Crime is on the rise, thus law enforcement agents must discover new ways for deterring criminals. In the past the primary method of deterrence adopted by law enforcement agents was apprehension and punishment. Since the dawn of time law enforcement agents have captured 'criminals' and assigned punishment fitting for their crime. Have these actions truly reduced crime? Studies suggest that traditional methods including incarceration are not effective for reducing crime and if anything may increase the overall crime rate or risk of repeat crime from offenders once released from prison (Tonry, 2000).
Despite these facts the number of people incarcerated every year for petty and serious offenses is growing. As mentioned previous within the West more citizens are incarcerated than in any other region of the world. This suggests that crime is on the rise and jail terms are not stopping the rates of recidivism. Studies suggest that jails are increasingly overcrowded and resources are lacking for supporting even the current criminal base (Tonry, 2000). Is creating new prisons a solution? Not necessarily. Creating new prisons would only exacerbate the problem, increasing the number of criminals incarcerated but not helping reform crimina
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law enforcement agents, law enforcement agencies,
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Clayton, Jenson, Bilchik,
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