Has prison deterred you from committing a crime?

I’m not trying to run a statistical survey here, but I am just flabbergasted by the idea that prison somehow deters crime. I have never, ever thought to myself, “I would commit this crime if only I knew I would never get sent to prison, but because I might get caught and serve time, I won’t commit this crime.”

So I’m just looking for personal anecdotes of people who have this feeling. I included the anonymous poll so that people who want to answer my question but not post, can do so.

Cannabis use in my state (and country) is a crime punishable by fine/prison. But I find it adds qualities to my life that make the risk worthwhile. I answered “no”.

Prison isn’t supposed to be the thing that deters everyone from committing crime, just the people who otherwise would. Most people don’t commit felonies for other reasons. For certain types of crimes/people, I think it can deter them, such as some would-be white collar criminals.

Absolutely. But then there are crimes and crimes.

Certainly. When I was younger, and a keen dope smoker and acid user, I used to get my stuff directly from a friend who had become a major supplier. The kind of guy you would buy pounds of dope from or thousands of trips. So I had the opportunity to buy stuff and deal to other people but only fear of getting busted prevented me from doing it because I didn’t think it was even morally questionable, just illegal.

For several years, the only reason I didn’t smoke pot was fear of having a misdemeanor and potential jail time on my record. So, yes.

If it were not for jail I would have beaten my next door neighbor to a pulp on several occassions. I would have burned his house and trashed his car. The guy drove me nuts for almosty 30 years. He could get away with vandalizing my stuff as he was a schitzophrenic.

     He even got away with throwing bricks through the windows of the police dept.

No. But I do have a genuine fear of prison.

I voted “yes”, but it would probably be more accurate to say that fear of punishment has deterred me from committing a crime (imprisonment being just one possible punishment).

I voted yes. The crimes that are true moral wrongs I wouldn’t commit regardless of punishment, but there are tons of things that are just malum prohibitum I’d engage in if not for the fact they were illegal.

For example why wouldn’t I hide as much of my taxable income as possible if not for the fact that deliberate tax evasion is a serious crime? I view no moral wrong in depriving the government of money, only a legal wrong, and only because of the immense power of government do I just meekly report all my income as accurately as possible.

Yeah, I wouldn’t say it’s explicitly “prison” versus the whole set of legal consequences but there’s a few things I don’t bother with because the risk vs. reward doesn’t seem to be in my favor. But things like theft or assault I just don’t do because of my own moral code more so than worrying about prison time. Or rather I never get to the part where I worry about prison because I never seriously contemplate the crime.


Though I did actually tell a judge to his face in court that threatening me with a contempt of court decision and jailing me until I complied didn’t scare me, as I was effectively homeless and couch surfing it would have meant 3 meals, a bed and access to a TV for effectively unlimited time and that I really couldn’t see much of a down side to it. He was grumpy, but didn’t jail me, so I guess I proved my point.

I answered yes. There have been times in my life when I have seriously wanted to mess somebody up, quite possibly kill them. Only the thought of what I would lose by going to jail kept me from doing it. Once I calmed down, I found other ways to mess them up.

Years ago I represented a lot of people charged with crimes. After their arrest, they really didn’t want to go to prison. At the time of their crime, they didn’t give it much thought. They know it was a risk, but they severely underestimated the chances of being caught. This was mostly for drug and property crimes. For violent crimes, I don’t think they gave consequences a second of thought.

Would I rob banks and still millions with a certainty of not getting caught and sent to prison? Maybe.

There have certainly been times when the thought of possible legal consequences stopped me from doing something. But usually it was pretty low level stuff. I don’t recall ever being tempted to commit some crime that would result in prison time.

Killing them softly… with your song?

Yeah I definitely would smoke pot (or more likely, bake it into brownies) if it didn’t have so many penalties on getting it.

No major crimes though. I don’t even think of pot smoking as something that should be considered a crime. I thihnk we should treat it like alcohol - don’t drive when you’ve had too much, don’t operate heavy machinery, etc.

Well, yes, but those are the ones that committed crimes. Of course they weren’t deterred. You would never meet the ones that were deterred.

To the OP: flip the question: if there were no jails or prisons, do you really think the world would otherwise be exactly the same in terms of personal safety and ethical behavior?

I don’t think the question is worded well, given the demographic that frequents this board. They’re a lot of things, but hardened criminals hardly.

A better question would have been “Do you think prison deters people from committing crimes?” and I’d say the answer is absolutely not, or crime wouldn’t be as prevalent as it is in society. And it absolutely is prevalent.

I think prison as a punishment is an absolute joke. Especially for major/capital crimes. I just don’t think society has figured out a way to dole out justice in a productive or appropriate manner yet. Prison is far too good, too easy, for way too many people, and yet, extreme overkill for many others. It exists solely because, quite frankly, we are just too stupid to know what to do with them otherwise, so we try to remove them from society to maintain normalcy. I’d argue a stint in prison only makes a better criminal. People don’t value freedom nearly as much as the populace wants to believe, if they did, well, society wouldn’t be the way it is, the way it’s trending.

Three hots, a cot, a roof, free healthcare, structure, socializing, there’s a sizable part of the population that appeals to, so those people can literally do whatever they want, to anyone they want, without consequence. Most states don’t have capital punishment anymore, those that do it’s completely pathetic and trending out, so there is really no mechanism to punish those that could be considered truly evil anymore. Knowing that, why wouldn’t you go out and kill as many people as possible as seems to be the popular thing to do these days? If the punishment is the same, whether you kill one, or kill 200, why stop?