Rational Choice Theory

The criminal justice system in the U.S. is based off rational choice theory and deterrence. The criminal justice system emphasizes that criminals choose to commit crimes, and thus they must be punished (Siegel 2011). This will then deter them from committing crimes again. As chapter four notes, this belief is circumspect at best. Since certainty and swiftness are impossible in the U.S., the U.S. criminal justice system emphasizes severity. However, as chapter four highlights, severity is but one of the three elements of deterrence and some argue that it is the weakest.

Task #1: Watch the following YouTube clip titled, “Vandal Michael Fay Sentenced to Lashes by Cane in Singapore [1994]” [Closed captioned; 1:11 minutes in length.]

Task #2: Answer the following Option #1 prompt questions:

(Chapter 4): There are very fascinating punishments implemented all over the world. Research caning in Singapore and the Michael Fay case. Find out the following information: (1) when they use this type of punishment, (2) for what crimes, (3) who is subject to caning, (4) how it is done, and (5) whether it is effective in their society.
Using your own words, give a detailed description of (1) what caning is, (2) what is used for, (3) and its effectiveness. How does rational choice theory apply to this form of deterrence? What two concepts from our chapter on rational choice theories can apply to caning in Singapore? Do you think caning would reduce crimes based on the cost-benefit analysis? How effective would caning be on reducing recidivism rates?


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