Essay about Classical Theory and Its Effects on Criminal Justice Policy

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Classical Theory

Classical Theory and its Effects on Criminal Justice Policy

With the exception of probation, imprisonment has been the main form of punishment for serious offenders in the United States for over 200 years. Americans can be said to have invented modern incarceration as a means of criminal punishment. Although Europe provided precedents, theoretical justifications, and even architectural plans for imprisoning offenders, Americans developed the blueprints for the typical prisons of today and devised the disciplinary routines, types of sentences, and programs that prison systems of other countries subsequently adopted or modified (Rafter & Stanley 1999). Many Americans tend to disagree about the purposes of prison.
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General deterrence, which means using the punishment of one individual to discourage others from committing crime, should, according to Beccaria, be replaced by specific or individual deterrence, which encourages each individual to calculate the costs of committing the crime. The level of punishment would be assessed by relating punishment to what an offense deserves (Lanier & Henry 2004).
This is the principle of “just deserts” means convicted offenders deserve punishment equal to the seriousness of the harm they caused through the specific crime they committed. This punishment cannot be for any other reason, such as to teach others a lesson or because they had committed other crimes in the past and so might be more likely to repeat them in the future (Lanier & Henry 2004).
To be an effective deterrent in individual calculations, punishments must also be certain, argued Beccaria. “The certainty of punishment, even if moderate, will always make a stronger impression than the fear of another which is more terrible but combined with the hope of impunity (Becarria [1764] 1963).
Beccaria believed that it was much more important for criminals to know what type of punishment would follow a crime. Even though the severity of punishment is high but the chances of being caught and punishment is low, people are still likely to commit crime.
Beccaria also