Rational Theory - Specific Difference: The Punishment Should Fit the Crime

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900 words
University of Richmond
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Understanding of the criminal activities is one of the greatest concern in this world where crimes have been constantly rising. This understanding would be critical to the justice departments in making informed choices concerning the policies for treatment of criminal situations. Understanding of criminal activities is the rational choice theory. The rational choice theory involves the intentional commitment to a criminal activity mainly because the rewards of committing the crime outweighs the benefits of failing to commit the crime.

The rationale choice gives a different perspective of the criminal activity from what has always been believed by people. The factors such as environmental issues, psychological factors, and biological issues do not make sense according to this theory. The most important thing put forth by this theory is the significance of benefits of not committing crime and reward that come with involvement in the criminal activity. The individuals will only engage in crime if the rewards of crime are greater than the benefits of abstinence. This theory outlines that the group mentality does not exist in the criminal activity since the criminal see themselves as individuals and not part of a group. The reward of the criminal activity is also viewed at individual perspective (Paternoster, Jaynes & Wilson, 2017).

Critical analysis of the theory

Worrall et al., (2014) argues that the rational theory is simply an explanation of the thoughts of how people think criminal activities occur. These explanations are not necessarily correct, but they give a glimpse on the issue of the criminal activities. The functionality of this theory is in the support it enjoys from various research works in the field of criminology and policy and public policy. According to Worrall et al., (2014), examination of situational crimes prevention indicates that rational choice theory is greatly applicable among the criminals. Conducting quantitative and qualitative research gives evidence that the criminal acts are motivated by the relationship between the benefits and costs of committing an offense. The ability to choose whether to leave o stick to a criminal activity would depend on the comparison of these essential factors about crime. The old and the new law offenders all make their judgments based on these factors that control their judgment. All the decisions to be involved in criminal activity are made after greatly considering the reward is offending, and the cost of such process would influence the ability of the criminals to make a decision to be involved in the business of conducting a crime. Committing an offense would involve a rational judgment only on the side of the law-abiding citizens while on the side of the criminals this would involve looking at the benefits of the criminal activity. Rationale choice theory of crime is so broad such that it has to be looked at the unit level to have a proper view of what triggers every criminal activity such as involvement in drugs, sexual abuse, robbery and many others (Worrall et al., 2014).

On the contrary, there are several pieces of evidence that are against the applicability of this theory in explanation of the criminal activities. One of the evidence is the fact that it categorizes crimes and cannot be used to explain both expressive and instrumental crimes in the society. It is not possible to explain the choice to be involved in the expressive crimes since involving a lot of emotional arousals before someone c get involved in the activity. Moreover, not all the offenders are mature enough to make decisions that concern weighing of benefits, costs, and risks. This theory does not offer an explanation for the crimes committed by this people in the society thus this is a great limitation on the side of this theory (Bernasco, Ruiter, & Block, 2017).

This is of this theory in the control of crime control policies is of utmost significance. In my honest opinion, I do not think this theory would be appropriate for influencing the crime control policies. This is mainly due to the fact that crimes are comprehensive activities that involve varied stakeholders with different characteristics that must be taken care of by the theory. It is clear that the theory cannot be used to explain the involvement of the under-aged in the criminal activities. The corridors of justice accept both young and old people who commit a crime, and thus theory used must be able to take care of all of them. Moreover, it is my belief that before people can weigh the costs and benefits, they are usually under the control of their emotions. All the decisions made must be in line with their emotional status especially in the situation of the expressive crimes. Failure of the policy to take care of the expressive criminal activities which in most cases bring the toughest legal battles make me conclude that the theory is not appropriate for influencing the crime policies within a nation.



Bernasco, W., Ruiter, S., & Block, R. (2017). Do street robbery location choices vary over time of day or day of week? A test in Chicago. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 54(2), 244-275.

Paternoster, R., Jaynes, C. M., & Wilson, T. (2017). Rational Choice Theory and Interest in the Fortune of Others. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 0022427817707240.

Worrall, J. L., Els, N., Piquero, A. R., & TenEyck, M. (2014). The moderating effects of informal social control in the sanctions-compliance nexus. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 39(2), 341-357.


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