Evidence on differential deterrability: a narrative review

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Empirical results on the deterrent impact of criminal sanctions are generally disenchanting. Population samples reveal negligible effects of expected sanctioning severity and only modest effects of perceived sanction certainty on measures of criminal activity. Consequently, the concept of differential deterrability - the idea that individuals differ in their responsiveness to sanction threats - gains prominence in perceptual deterrence research. The present article provides an overview of the evidence base of differential deterrability. There is indication that individuals who hold weak moral beliefs, possess low self-control and have many delinquent friends are more susceptible to a crime-reducing impact of perceived sanction risk. The observation that those burdened with risk factors for crime are moderately responsive to the risk of legal punishment support a certain suitability of criminal law as instrument of secondary prevention.

Translated title of the contributionEvidence on differential deterrability: a narrative review
Original languageGerman
Pages (from-to)221-234
Number of pages14
JournalMonatsschrift fur Kriminologie und Strafrechtsreform
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes

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