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A person may decide to risk violating the law after he/she has put into consideration his or her own personal situation such as need for money, personal values, and situational factors such as the affluence of the neighborhood and the degree of protection available. This essay provides an overview of rational choice theory that is related to criminal acts
The choice theories that are related to crime include routine choice theory, routine activities theory, rational choice theory and lifestyle choice theory. Social scientists make use of choice theory to understand the human behavior. For recent decades this approach has become more widely used in disciplines such as Political Science, Sociology, and Anthropology. Rational choice theory was in the past applied in the field of economics and later to this other disciplines. In the society's wide spectrum, different crimes are committed by offenders and those who commit the crimes are believed to meet their different needs. In respect to this, people who commit criminal acts rationalize their behaviors through their own contextual perspectives and the utility gained through committing crimes against society is not only relegated to physical gain but also to psychological satisfaction and benefits. The main doctrine choice theory implies that criminals who engage in illegal activities make use of particular thought process prior to their involvement in the criminal action. It is evident that most crimes are believed to have some kind of rational component to them (Volket F, 2007).
This choice theory takes into account the potential for situational factors which may facilitate the decision on whether or not to commit a criminal action. It also suggests that if an offender perceives that the benefit from committing a crime is more than the cost associated with the relevant punishment, the person will definitely engage in the criminal acts. In circumstances where the punishment for an offense is much greater than the possible gains derived from the same, a rational person will neglect to commit the criminal act (Regoli M. and Hewit D.2009).
Perhaps the more powerful criticism towards the choice theory is that there is a belief among people in the society that the theory overstates the extent of how individuals balance the dangers associated with the crime against the benefits when deciding whether or not to commit a criminal act. It has been argued that rational theorist believe that all the criminals think about their acts before engaging in any criminal activity.
If the punishments associated with crimes in the society are severe, there exists a belief that a fear for such punishments contributes to determent of individuals from participating in criminal activities. Another argument which is frequently made against the choice theory is that the theorists sometimes fail to acknowledge that an adequate solution to the crime menace itself may be achieved if there were more equitable political, social and economic opportunities given to all individuals imprisoned by the unfavorable living environments (Matsueda L, Kreager and Huizinga D).
To simply state, the impoverished individuals with marginal opportunities in the society are unlikely to be influenced by threats of sanctions if at all their individual survival depends on them having to get involved in illegal criminal acts. Moreover, the threats of the increased severe punishments would have little effect on people in such situations consequently having little to no impact on whether or not that person participates in gainful criminal activities (Gaines K.2008).
The choice theory which delivers harsh punishments ensures that the outcome of the crime cannot be more appealing than choosing not to get involved in the crime. The choice theory is most appropriate when considering how to reduce and or control criminal activities in a society. It is therefore the most appropriate in holding some individuals accountable for actions rather than for their natural make up.