Just Deserts Theory

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Through the decades, crime and crime control have been analyzed in an attempt to find the causes of crime and decide how to combat them. The United States showed an increase in their prison population in the 1970s when the country turned towards a more punitive justice system. Referred to as just deserts theory of crime, the aim is to inflict as much pain on the offender through harsh prison sentences, in hopes to cause as much pain as the crime they committed. The worse the crime is, the worse the punishment the criminal will endure. The issue surrounding just deserts theory is the vast amount of offenders who return to prison after being released, also known as the recidivism rate. Although just deserts theory does not seek to lower the rate…show more content…
This research paper will discuss why there is no value to the just deserts approach and why, if supplemented with a re-entry program, just deserts will have a greater significance. The theory and practice of the just deserts approach will be examined as well as why it does not appear to be working for offenders. Additionally, re-entry programs will be analyzed; those operating in Canada and in the United States, to further explain why reintegrating is better for the community and offenders. It is easy to agree with the just deserts approach to crime, however, when a loved one is affected by the harsh punishments and the negative consequences of prison, it makes life afterward extremely…show more content…
Just deserts claims that it is the offender’s choice to commit a crime, using the classical theory founded by Cesare Beccaria that states, “It asserts that a person is a rational individual with the free will to make a moral choice whether or not to engage in conduct known to be prohibited” (Starkweather, 1991, p.855). The offender made his choice and therefore must be punished for his act of crime. However, just deserts fails to acknowledge that factors in a child’s upbringing can affect their life choices as an adolescence and adult. As noted by Alley, Minnis, Thompson, Wilson and Gillberg (2014), adults who were “psychically, sexually, and emotionally abused as children were three times more likely than were non-abused adults to act violently as adults” (p.290). Consequently, giving punitive sentences and failing to help them psychologically will not help offenders when they are released back into the community. The court system should acknowledge the offenders past and realize that the reasons they are committing crimes are not their free will, it is elements in their past that have caused them to act in a deviant manner. Furthermore, Cullen and Johnson (2017) agree by stating, “science has demonstrated that un-chosen individual traits (e.g., temperament, self-control, IQ) and un-chosen social circumstances (e.g., family, school, community) can be
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