Tweet: Criminal Learning

Data on punishment and criminal arrests in a total birth cohort of men in Denmark (N = 28,879) were used to test the following hypotheses derived from learning theory:

  • (a) The imposition of sanctions reduces rates of subsequent criminal arrest;
  • (b) The more severe the sanction received for an arrest, the lower the rate of recidivism;
  • (c) Different types of sanctions have similar effects on recidivism;
  • (d) The higher the proportion of sanctions received for past arrests, the lower the rates of future arrest;
  • (e) Continuous sanctions reduce arrest rates more than intermittent sanctions, and
  • (f) Discontinuation of punishment results in the recovery of criminal arrests.

Results suggest that sanctions have similar effects on recidivism regardless of their severity.

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