Exploring the Relationship between Subjectively Experienced Severity of Imprisonment and Recidivism: A Neglected Element in Testing Deterrence Theory

Ellen A.C. Raaijmakers, Thomas A. Loughran, Jan W. de Keijser, Paul Nieuwbeerta, Anja J.E. Dirkzwager

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives: This study assessed to what extent differences in the subjectively experienced severity of imprisonment (SESI) affect postrelease offending behavior. Methods: Interview and questionnaire data from the Prison Project, a sample of 1,344 Dutch inmates who were incarcerated for up to two years. Results: Bivariate analyses indicate that inmates who experience their imprisonment as more aversive are less likely to be reconvicted following release. While this relation persists after accounting for the duration of confinement, it disappears once potential confounders are accounted for. Conclusions: Even when accounting for the SESI, more severe prison sentences do not deter offenders from subsequent involvement in crime. Hence, while a growing number of scholars argued that accounting for the SESI would result in a different conclusion about the specific deterrent effect of imprisonment than previously assumed, this body of skepticism is not grounded in empirical evidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-28
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Volume54
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology

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