General deterrence refers to crime prevention achieved through instilling fear in the general population through the punishment of offenders. Law enforcement influences behavior through general deterrence and specific deterrence. Law enforcement aims at general deterrence, achieved by increasing the subjective risk of apprehension.
General deterrence focuses on general prevention of crime by highlighting examples of specific deviant behavior. The focus is not on the individual actor. The individual actor receives punishment in public view in order to deter other individuals from deviance in the future. General deterrence theory focuses on reducing the probability of deviance in the general population.
General deterrence can be defined as the impact of the threat of legal punishment on the public at large. Specific deterrence can be seen as the impact of the actual legal punishment on those who are apprehended.
Thus, general deterrence results from the perception of the public that laws are enforced and that there is a risk of detection and punishment when laws are violated. Specific deterrence results from actual experiences with detection, prosecution, and punishment of offenders.
General deterrence focuses on future behaviors, preventing individuals from engaging in crime or deviant by impacting their rational decision making process. Specific deterrence focuses on punishing known deviants in order to prevent them from repeat violation of the specific norms they have broken.
A Reconceptualization of General and Specific
The Role of Reputation in General Deterrence