Defiance Theory and Sex Offenders What Part Does Defiance Play in the Re-Offending of Sex Offenders?

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Date Submitted: 01/25/2012 02:31 PM

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APRIL 25, 2005


Lawrence W. Sherman (1993) developed a theory he refers to as Defiance Theory to help exam the effects of sanctions on criminals to determine the probability of re-offending or recidivism. In his study, Sherman discusses two previously held theories; Labeling and Rational Choice. In his discussion, Sherman asks the question, "Does applying criminal sanctions to individuals cause offenders to "get worse" or to be "scared straight?" The Labeling Theory holds that harsh treatment of offenders may actually cause them to "get worse, " and thus increase their likelihood to re-offend. The Rational Choice theorists maintain that given the certainty and severity of punishment, offenders would make a rationale choice on deciding to offend or re-offend.

Sherman expands these two theories and examines the effects of sanctions and its agents have on offenders in the criminal justice process. This examination explores the idea that criminal sanctions and processes might cause individuals to become more criminal, or defiant. As such, Sherman developed his Defiance Theory and defined it as the "net increase in the prevalence, incidence, or seriousness of future offending against a sanctioning community caused by a proud, shameless reaction to the administration of a criminal sanction."

To further discuss Defiance Theory, the effects of sanctions must be reviewed. Sherman states that the quality and effects of the sanctions the criminal justice process imposes on offenders can be viewed as just or unjust. Additionally, the way sanctions are applied or met out by sanctioning agents may impact their reaction as fair or unfair. Simply put, if an offender is treated unfairly by the police through rudeness or excessive force, he may react with hostility. The result of this treatment will...

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