The Sentencing Project Releases New Publication on Prison Deterrence

Good reading!  The report addresses a key concern for policy makers regarding whether deterrence is better achieved by increasing the (1) likelihood of apprehension, or (2) severity of sanctions.  The report, titled Deterrence in Criminal Justice: Evaluating certainty vs. the Severity of Criminal Punishment is written  is written by Valerie Wright, PhD.

http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/Deterrence%20Briefing%20.pdf

Overall, the report concludes that:

•    Enhancing the certainty of punishment is far more likely to produce deterrent effects than increasing the severity of punishment.

•    There is no significant public safety benefit to increasing the severity of sentences by imposing longer prison terms, particularly at high levels of incarceration.

•    Policies such as “three strikes and you’re out” and mandatory minimum sentences only burden state budgets without increasing public safety.

•    Evidence-based approaches would require increasing the certainty of punishment by improving the likelihood of detection.

My opinion?  The report seems accurate.  I’ve blogged numerous times on this topic, particilarly the need for the criminal justice system to seek rehabilitation instead of incarceration for many crimes, especially drug crimes.  At a time when fiscal concerns have propelled policymakers to consider means of controlling corrections budgets, the findings on deterrence suggest that a focus on examining harsh sentencing practices is long overdue.