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Although the recent debate over the efficacy of [#permalink]
29 Aug 2008, 08:43
Although the recent debate over the efficacy of capital punishment as a deterrent to violent crime has produced informed commentary from both camps, few of the “experts” cited in public discussion of the issue are aware that the basic concept of deterrence was developed during the eighteenth century by the Italian writer Cesare Beccaria in his book Crimes and Punishments (1764). While arguing vehemently in favor of strict punishments for violent criminals, Beccaria nevertheless rejected torture, secret trials, and capital punishment as viable deterrents to violent crime.
Beccaria’s writings have had a profound influence on the treatment of criminals. However, at present there is little evidence to support Beccaria’s fundamental contention that strict punishment leads to a reduction in violent crime. In a survey of the American penal system recently carried out by the Justice Department, a vast majority of convicted felons revealed that the threat of strict punishment, even capital punishment, in no way deterred them from committing a particular crime or pursuing a career in crime. One wonders how Beccaria would alter his arguments if evidence like this had been available to him. He might be pleased to note that the evidence does support his belief that capital punishment is an ineffective deterrent, but he would be hard pressed to find compelling support for his other Draconian recommendations.
1. The passage is primarily concerned with
a. promoting the theories of a little-known author
b. urging the reader to address a pressing social concern
c. presenting an alternative to a widely-held belief
d. discussing the strengths and weaknesses of a theory
e. tracing the history of a particular social movement
2. Which of the following describes the author’s attitude toward the debate over capital punishment?
a. Neither side has produced any cogent argument in favor of its position.
b. It is a passionate dispute that has produced more rhetoric than substance.
c. One side has a stronger position based on theories first expressed in the eighteenth century.
d. Any resolution of the debate will require drastic reconsideration of current penal codes.
e. Both sides have contributed thoughtful arguments to the debate.
3. According to the author, which of the following is true of Beccaria’s conception of criminal punishment?
a. It is discounted by most participants in the debate over capital punishment.
b. It typifies eighteenth-century attitudes toward the treatment of violent criminals.
c. It is less relevant to the debate over capital punishment than it was two centuries ago.
d. It forms the basis of the most contemporary discussions of crime and punishment.
e. It contains an early expression of a central issue to the debate over capital punishment.
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