Criminal behavior, the Legal Consequences that Follow and the Causes of Crime

Criminal behavior
Criminal behavior

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Criminal behavior, the Legal Consequences that Follow and the Causes of Crime

In the criminal justice system, deterrence refers to the lawful act of taking peoples’ ability to commit a crime in order to prevent them from committing it. Rehabilitation is on the other hand aimed at ending an individual’s desire to commit a crime by curing him/her from the desire and habits that incline them to felony (Andrews & Bonta, 2010). In that sense, deterrence is seen as a consequence that involves the punishment of the offenders, while rehabilitation involves practices that changes their perspectives and personalities in such a way that their criminal tendencies are eliminated.

The main objective therefore rests on the development of effective measures that prevent crime from happening, as such, it is necessary to understand the reasons why people are inclined to committing crimes. There are many theories that have been advanced in order to understand, explain and find solutions to criminal activities, and as such, they form the basis on which criminal psychology and forensic science operates in the criminal justice system.

The main theories that have been developed to explain criminal activity are the Psychological, Biological and Sociological theories. Each one or a combination of all the theories is used to understand criminal behavior, and the information obtained is used to determine the best ways to control crime.

According to Psychologists, there are three theories or approaches that could be used to explain criminal tendencies and behavior. These are; the biological approaches; the psychological approaches; and the sociological approaches (Bartol & Bartol, 2014). The psychological approach is based on the assumption that an individual bears the responsibility of his or her actions, and as such, prevention of criminal activity is focused on specific persons through programs that educate, train, rehabilitate or change the social and psychological perspective of the individual. However, this is based on the premise that the past behavior of an individual can be used to predict their future behavior (Bartol & Bartol, 2014).

The biological approaches are based on the assumption that people commit crimes because of some problem in their biological make up that could be hereditary or caused by trauma. As a result, crime prevention through biological approaches is usually achieved through un-natural interference in an individual’s body through initiatives such as psychosurgery, stimulation of the nervous system, and the use of chemical therapy among many others (Bartol & Bartol, 2014).

On the other hand, the sociological approach looks at crime from a broader perspective. It focuses on societal aspects that influence the environment in which the criminal lives in, and as such, does not directly hold an individual as being entirely responsible for his actions, but rather having acted from the pressure exerted on them by the social environment (Bartol & Bartol, 2014). Consequently, the sociological approach focuses on positioning how political and economic factors in the environment contribute to the occurrence of crime in a particular society.

Deterrence vs Rehabilitation

Deterrence as an approach that is aimed at preventing criminal activities takes place prior to the occurrence of criminal activity. Therefore, deterrence works towards preventing a crime from occurring and if done effectively, there would be zero cases of crime, and this because deterrence makes the subjects fear committing crime or takes away their physical ability to commit crime (Stein & Levi 2015).

It is therefore easy to argue that deterrence is less costly when compared to rehabilitation since is it is effectively done, loses from crime would not be incurred, and that the state would have not prisons to run or criminals to secure and incapacitate. Rehabilitation as an approach that is aimed at preventing crime may be effective in that; it works towards taking away an individual’s desire to commit a crime.

The approach is therefore taken into consideration after an individual has committed a crime as a means of eliminating the desire to re-commit the crime in the future (Andrews & Bonta, 2010). Therefore, it can be argued that rehabilitation is more costly to the state when compared to deterrence since costs associated with the loss that result from criminal activity coupled with those of rehabilitating the criminal are shouldered by the state at the same time. In other words, deterrence may be seen as a preventive approach and rehabilitation as a curative one.

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Deterrence is effective in that it prevents anyone from committing a crime regardless of their inclination towards it, while on the other hand, rehabilitation only focuses on those who participate criminal activities with the intention of changing their behavior (Stein & Levi 2015). This implies that while deterrence is a sure way to preventing crime, rehabilitation depends on the individual’s willingness to avoid crime in the future.

In the criminal justice system, deterrence has proved to be more effective in preventing crime as compared to rehabilitation, which is mainly because most individuals who attend rehabilitation programs only do it to be given early release. The state would therefore find it more effective to adopt deterrence as a fundamental approach and maybe integrate rehabilitation programs in the system for those individuals who wish to benefit from the service (Stein & Levi 2015).

The fact that deterrence takes the individual’s physical ability to commit crime is satisfactory in as far as prevention of crime is concerned. However, the individual’s desire to commit crime may still be present, implying that the individual may revert to criminal activities whenever he or she is released (Stein & Levi 2015). In contracts to deterrence, rehabilitation would prevent the individual from desiring to commit a crime even when supervision is withdrawn. As such, it would be more effective to provide rehabilitation services to in mates so as to discourage them from reverting to crime when they are released from prison (Andrews & Bonta, 2010).


Andrews, D. A., & Bonta, J. (2010). Rehabilitating criminal justice policy and practice. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 16(1), 39.

Bartol, A. M., & Bartol, C. R. (2014). Criminal behavior: A psychological approach. Boston: Pearson, c2014. xxiii, 644 pages: illustrations; 24 cm.

Stein, J. G., & Levi, R. (2015). In Partnership with the Center on Law and Security at NYU School of Law and the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute: Navigating Deterrence: Law, Strategy,     & Security in the Twenty-First Century: The Social Psychology Of Denial: Deterring Terrorism. NYUJ Int’l L. & Pol., 47, 409-855.

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