In practice, focused deterrence often involves the deliberate sacrifice of severity to swiftness and certainty: the search for the “minimum effective dose” of sanction required to create compliance. The “swift, certain, fair” probation strategy is possible only because it explicitly trades occasional high-level sanctions – revocation of probation and subsequent incarceration – for routine but small punishments (Hawken and Kleiman 2009). Evaluation is showing not only that the approach is greatly more effective but that incongruously small punishments seem to be consequential; “we have yet to find the lower bound of sanction effectiveness,” Kleiman concludes (Nicosia 2016; M. Kleiman, personal communication, 2015). The saliency of a given sanction is not always predictable by those in charge of assigning it; Angela Hawken has pioneered the practice of interviewing groups of offenders to identify what threats (and, conversely, what promised rewards) will actually drive behavior.
Posted on by Lauren Rilling