According to Siegel (2008), the development of rational choice theory is intimately related to the Classical School of criminology initiated by its founder Cesare Beccaria. Under the classical theory, the principle of Utilitarianism steps in as man is expected to make a rational choice and shall be held responsible for his actions which may entail a penalty for misdeeds. The rational choice theory is a combination of rational behavior and human capital and the outcome is a criminal activity. One economist named Gary Becker applied his views on this theory and he discovered that offenders are engaged in a predictable behavior before crimes are committed. There is rationality as the offenders consider the cost-benefit analysis before they perform a particular crime by balancing the interests of the benefit that he is expected to achieve, and the consequence of imprisonment for committing the crime. Siegel (2008) stated that this perception resulted to the creation of a modern version of classical theory which refers to criminal decision-making that involves a careful thinking process in order to bring about at an intelligent decision and this was later known as the rational choice theory.
Rational choice theory comprises of three elements: 1.) a reasoning criminal; 2.) a crime-specific emphasis; and 3.) analysis of crime and criminal events (Samaha, 2005). It has been said that this theory is beneficial for the offenders since the “reasoning criminal element” can be used for the determination of their decisions are tainted with irrationality and pathology (Samaha, 2005). As a result, the rational choice theory will provide the offender the chance to establish particular objectives that will allow them to evaluate the best alternative method that can lead them to reaching their goals. Every crime-specific element entails a diverse decision-making process for the offense which is about to be committed. Such as in the crime of theft or burglary, the criminal will have to make a decision on the actions that he will take to obtain the desired result which is monetary gain. In the rational choice theory, the decision-making element shall give the offender an ample opportunity to decide the type of crime that he intends to commit, from the simple crime of theft or a more serious crime such as robbery. Samaha (2005) stated that the decision-making process shall carry with it the criminal involvement and criminal events that shall require three important decisions: First is the decision to commit a crime; second is the decision to continue the crime; and third is the decision to disengage in the commission of the crime. Therefore, it is essential that careful preparation and consideration of factors that are situational and personal in nature must be taken before a decision is made. Siegel (2008) argues that personal consideration may consist of various factors including money, vengeance and the pleasure one will receive when a particular crime was carried out successfully. On the other hand, situational factors comprises of target availability, police outcome and other security measures (Siegel, 2008). Furthermore, such ability is absent to persons who suffer from mentally illness persons since they are incapable of rational thinking.
In conclusion, it can be said that the rational choice theory is applicable to all crimes since the offenders are given the freedom to choose whether to commit the crime or abstain from getting involved in the commission of crimes. Therefore, rational choice theory entails the use of intelligent thinking process in order to balance the consequences of ones actions which carry a punishment when a particular crime was performed successfully (Williams and McShane, 2010).
Samaha, J. (2005). Criminal Justice. Belmont, California: Cengage Learning.
Siegel, L. (2008). Criminology the Core, 3rd ed. California: Cengage Learning.
Williams, F. P III and McShane, M. D. (2010). Criminological Theory, 5th ed. USA: Prentice