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Rational Choice Crime Theory

A woman was recently arrested for drowning all four of her children. Her defense team suggested that she was depressed and had no idea what she was doing at the time of the crime.


Analyze this type of crime using the rational choice theory, answering the following:

*How is criminal behavior explicable according to rational choice theory?
*What crime control strategies are effective according to rational choice theory?
*How could crimes like this be prevented according to the rational choice theory?

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Interesting case! Let's take a closer look. Please see supporting article attached as well.

1. How is criminal behavior explicable according to rational choice theory?

In seeking to answer the question, "Why do people engage in deviant and/or criminal acts?" many researchers, as well as the general public, have begun to focus on the element of personal choice (Keel, 2004).

An understanding of personal choice is commonly based in a conception of rationality or rational choice. These conceptions are rooted in the work of Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham. According to Keel (2004), the central points of this theory are:

(1) The human being is a rational actor,
(2) Rationality involves an end/means calculation,
(3) People (freely) choose all behavior, both conforming and deviant, based on their rational calculations,
(4) The central element of calculation involves a cost benefit analysis: Pleasure versus Pain,
(5) Choice, with all other conditions equal, will be directed towards the maximization of individual pleasure,
(6) Choice can be controlled through the perception and understanding of the potential pain or punishment that will follow an act judged to be in violation of the social good, the social contract,
(7) The state is responsible for maintaining order and preserving the common good through a system of laws (this system is the embodiment of the social contract),
(8) The Swiftness, Severity, and Certainty of punishment are the key elements in understanding a law's ability to control human behavior. Classical theory, however, dominated thinking about deviance for only a short time. Positivist research on the external (social, psychological, and biological) "causes" of crime focused attention on the factors that impose upon and constrain the rational choice of individual actors.

According to Keel (2004), owing to the perceived failure of rehabilitative technologies and the increase in the officially recorded crime rates during the 1970's and 1980's attention returned to an analysis of the criminal decision making process. Rational Choice Theory emerged. "According to this view, law-violating behavior should be viewed as an event that occurs when an offender decides to risk violating the law after considering his or her own personal situation (need for money, personal values, learning experiences) and situational factors (how ...

Solution Summary

By responding to the question in reference to the scenario of a woman who drowned her four children, this solution provides helps to analyze the type of crime by using the rational choice theory. This theory is comprehensively detailed, including a supplementary article.