Crime Deterrents in the USA


The criminal rates of the United States of America are ubiquitously reported to be among the highest ones in the world. Having compared the spread of the crime of the United States of America with the majority of the European countries, it becomes evident that the number of the crimes committed on the territory of the United States is significantly bigger and various social and other factors contribute to it. First and foremost, the United States of America is reported to be among the countries where the one can almost freely purchase a firearm, which according to the FBI report is in 67% the tool to commit a homicide. Another factor includes the activity of the law enforcement agencies of the United States of America.

The methods and toolkits applied by them are not considered as the most effective ones which are available for the contemporary police communities. To be more exact, the preventive tools which are currently applied by the United States police and other law enforcement departments, especially those from the preventive set of methods, may be sometimes considered as partially outdated and no longer meeting the requirements of the contemporary community. Another group of factors of the poor statistics of the United States crime prevention is a poor application of the available deterrent mechanisms. Their utility and possible sphere of application is commonly misunderstood and wrongly interpreted by the scholars and by the practitioners as well. The commonly shared and supported assumption that the harder crime is the harder punishment it deserves is wrong in its nature and nowadays the law enforcement practice clearly demonstrates that the recidivism is not in any case deterred by the severity of the punishment sentenced to the criminal in each individual crime.

The aim of this research paper is to evaluate the currently applied methods of crime punishment, to identify the most effective one and to speculate over the possible consequences the punishment of the crime brings to the society of the United States of America and globally. In particular, it is discoursed whether these repercussions of severe criminal liability is beneficial for the United States or global civil communities or not.

Crime Deterrents of the United States and their Effectiveness

The leading theoreticians of the criminal law and criminology of the United States and their international colleagues have identified a significant number of the currently available tools which are utilized by the United States courts and law enforcement agencies to prevent crime and to withhold the delinquents from committing further crimes, ones they have once transgressed the law. This part of the paper examines contemporarily available tools utilized by the US law enforcement agencies for the purposes of crime deterrence and prevention (Sherman et al., 2002). The aim of these tools, as stated by the leading scholars of the criminal law, is not only to prevent the perpetuation of the criminal deeds by the delinquents, but to discourage the prospective malefactors from committing crimes and related actions.

Increased Prison Terms

The joint FBI and International Amnesty Organization indicate that more than 2.3 billion people are now imprisoned in the United States of America. Moreover, it is becoming more and more evident that the number of the annually convicted persons is increasing dramatically, although no proof that the increase of the prison terms contributes to the extermination of the criminal rates or at least their reduction has been provided by the respective authorities so far. The problem lies here in the assertion that if a prospective delinquent is fully convinced that he will be 100% caught red handed while committing a crime; no one can be reasonably expected to perpetuate a crime. On the other hand, there will be no need increasing prison terms, since the existing ones will be considered sufficient enough to restrain the prospective criminals from committing criminal deeds they intend to do. The problem of this paradigm is the fact that nowadays a criminal, violating a law, reasonably assumes that under any circumstances he or she will be capable of completely evading justice.

Most importantly, this assumption is approbated by the fact that not necessarily all crimes and misdeeds committed result in the apprehension of a criminal element who perpetrated it. Therefore, while committing a crime a criminal element or a delinquent reasonably expects that nothing will impede them to do it with impunity. Therefore, in this paradigm two mutually connected issues are to be closely analyzed. First and foremost, it is important to analyze whether applying more severe punishment is really consistent. Statistically, it is proven that when a criminal element is fully convinced that under any circumstances he or she will be traced down and brought to liability, it is highly improbable that the criminal action will be done by him or her. In other words, the criminals are more persuaded not to commit further crimes, when they are fully aware that their deed will be more definitely than more severely punished by the authorized official powers of the United States or international crime prevention agency. To be more exact, 73% of the anonymously questioned and interviewed incarcerated United States prisoners imparted that the fact that they will be definitely caught and punished in accordance with the existing laws deter them considerably more effectively than the fact that they may hypothetically be apprehended and treated in accordance with the harder applicable punishment codes (Skogan & Hamett, 1997).

Having summarized the major points of this section, it has become evident that no significant results are brought when the criminals realize that they may be hypothetically apprehended. On the other hand, the criminals are more effectively restrained from committing wrongful acts when they are definitely assured that they will be apprehended and treated in accordance with the applicable law, although it can be less rigorous.

Life Imprisonment

Applicable criminal law of the United States of America explicitly prescribes that for the gravest crimes committed within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States of America, the delinquents shall be punished with being imprisoned until they die. The effectiveness of this method is vigorously advocated and contested by the leading theoreticians and practitioners of the criminal law and procedure of the United States of America (Bolton & Hand, 2000). Various methods have been utilized by the researchers to find out whether this mean of prevention is indeed an effective tool to prevent crime and to deter the delinquents from either committing crimes for the first time or turning into recidivists. In this context, the conducted empirical research indicated that similarly to the prison terms, the certainty but not the severity is the predominant factor which effectively deters the criminals from perpetuating crimes or crime-related deeds.

More exactly, the necessity of the very existence of this type of the crime is fervently disputed by the Bar community of the United States of America. To be more specific, the realization by the criminals of the fact that they will be definitely put behind the bars (not necessarily lifelong) is a much more effective tool to deter the criminals than a probable putting occasionally caught criminals into prison before they die. Until this “probability” becomes a “certainty”, the effectiveness of the lifelong sentences as well as the death penalty will remain a considerably questionable tool of crime deterrence and crime preservation.

Monetary Means of Punishment

Alongside with the above discussed mechanisms of punishment, the imposition of the fines and other financial penalties upon those, who perpetuated crimes or serious civil misdeeds, is subjected to the principle outlined above. In any case, certainty deters severity. The Federal Revenue Service has widely experimented with the different strategies, and it was practically ascertained that the imposition of high fines do not necessarily reduce the risk that a targeted delinquent of trespassing business entity (especially with regard to the financial crimes) will be restrained from committing crimes if punished financially, whatever the amount of the imposed sanctions is (Garfindel, 2012). However, the chances of the relapse are considerably reduced, when the delinquent elements fully realize that the probability of the retribution whatsoever is high.


Having summarized the major points of this research paper, it should be accentuated that the focus of the law enforcement agencies should be made on the increase of “certainty” rather than “severity” of the punishments imposed for the perpetuation of the specific crimes. This approach is beneficial not only with regard to the crime fight effectiveness rates, but because of the economizing of the financial resources as well (Sherman et al., 2002). It was calculated by the analysts of the Internal Revenue Service that the elaboration of the more effective investigation and apprehension are more effective tools for crime fight and recidivism prevention that the upkeep of the army of prisoners behind the bars.

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