There are two levels of deterrence: General and Specific deterrence. According to Vito, Maahs and Holmes (2006, p. 52) general deterrence is concerned with society as a whole. Here, the individual punishment is focused in sending a message to everyone, where the punishment demonstrates what will happen to future offenders who will violate the same crime. General deterrence causes a significant impact of the threat of lawful punishment which aims to target the public at large. While specific deterrence shall focus on the individual offender as it seek to teach the criminal a lesson so they will learn from their mistakes and will choose to the right path in the future (Vito et al., 2006). Specific deterrence is regarded as the actual impact of lawful punishment imposed upon the offenders who shall be arrested by the police authorities. To illustrate, general deterrence is an outcome of the society’s perception on traffic laws that are currently being enforced and that the offender faces the risk of punishment in the event that such person shall be apprehended after violating the traffic laws. On the other hand, specific deterrence may be derived from the tangible encounters such as detection, arrest, prosecution, and punishment of the criminals. It is presumed that the work of the police enforcement is geared towards general deterrence with the intention to increase the risk of apprehension among the offenders (Samaha, 2011). General detention carries that subjective risk of apprehension that promotes the efficiency of the law enforcement agencies when it is exposed with publicity and a mixture of extremely high visible activities and less visible activities that is continued over an extended period of time (Samaha, 2009).
In general deterrence, it gives the idea that punishing offenders will deter the rest of the society. This means that giving punishment to offenders will broadcast to society that there is a substantial amount of pain that corresponds to the criminal behavior (Vito et al., 2006.). The concept of general deterrence means that people should be punished to be able to set an example to others (Samaha, 2009). If an offender is punished for the crime he has committed, other people will be warned and afraid to violate the law because they will suffer the same consequences. According to Samaha (2011, p. 491) general deterrence can be considered as a crime control policy that is dependent on the fear of criminal penalties. In this case, prolonged prison sentence for violent crimes are aimed to convince the potential law violator that the suffering and pain associated with the offense shall outweigh the benefits.
The principle of specific deterrence is the concept of punishing the offenders will have an effect on themselves where in the offenders will feel the pain of punishment and will have lesser probability of reoffending in the future (Vito et al., 2006). Specific deterrence is a crime control policy which suggests that punishment must be severe enough to convince the convicted felons never to commit the criminal activity for which they were punished (Samaha, 2009). To illustrate, studies have shown that punishment reduces the probability that spousal abusers will reoffend, while other did not obtain same positive results. Hence, this shows that experiencing punishment may have a specific deterrence effect on criminality while some offenders failed to show the same deterrent effect.
Samaha, J. (2011). Criminal Procedure. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Siegel, L.J. (2009). Introduction to Criminal Justice. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Vito, G.F, Maahs, J.R. and Holmes, R.M. (2006). Criminology: Theory, Research and Policy.
2nd ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning.