Aggressive Criminal

Does prison time actually deter crime?

On Behalf of | Criminal Defense |

If you ask someone why we send people to prison when they commit crimes, odds are that they will tell you that it is supposed to act as a deterrent. If someone knows that they’re going to go to jail for robbing a bank, they won’t rob the bank. If they know that it’s illegal to drive under the influence and they may have to spend time behind bars if caught, they won’t drive when they’re impaired.

But does this actually work in any sense? Is it actually stopping crime from happening?

It increases the odds of future crime

One thing that’s interesting is that some studies have found that sending people to jail just makes it more likely that they will engage in criminal activity in the future. They may even learn from other people that they’re sent to jail with and take this knowledge with them when they are released.

Additionally, spending time in jail can throw someone’s life off of course. Imagine a college student who has to spend two years behind bars. They have to drop out of school, they don’t get their degree, they lose all of their social connections and they get out of jail two years later feeling like they are well behind all of their peers. Someone like this may struggle to find a job and turn to criminal activity simply as a way to try to make ends meet.

Are there any deterrents?

Interestingly, there are some ways that you can deter crime. Experts note that many people are much more influenced by the likelihood of getting caught.

For instance, if someone thought they wouldn’t get caught but the penalty was spending a year in jail, they may still take the chance and assume that they wouldn’t get caught and so there would be no penalty. But if they thought they would almost definitely get caught, even if the penalty was only a $100 fine, the odds are that they would refrain from that activity. What they are really considering is how likely they are to get away with it, not the ramifications.

All of this is important to keep in mind if you or one of your children are facing criminal charges. Be sure you know about all of your legal defense options.