Deterrence is an attempt to prevent a crime from taking place by creating such severe punishments that it will prevent an individual from committing a crime in the first place. Penology defines the effect that deterrence has on a felon in two categories.
Specific deterrence focuses on the particular felon in particular. This kind of deterrence seeks to prevent the felon from committing an additional crime and based on calculating the gravity of the crime in question.
General or indirect deterrence is the philosophy that is the consequences of committing a felony are very strong, are severe, and are well-publicized, it will act as a deterrent against further crime because it will prevent other individuals from becoming a felon because they will be intimidated by the punishments they know are awaiting them if they pursue a felonious course of action.
General deterrence operated not by targeting an individual felon and hoping that being given a harsh punishment will help the sentenced felon learn right from wrong, but will instead intimidate other individuals who would not want to be subjected to the same punishments from becoming felons in the first place.
The death penalty is an example of general deterrence. Incapacitation is considered another approach to specific deterrence. The general form of incapacitation is incarceration.
Deterrence has been criticized as being ineffective at accomplishing its goals. The efficiency of specific deterrence has been criticized since it cannot address crimes committed in the heat of the moment or while under the influence. General deterrence has been denounced as making an example out of a criminal, making it unfair to the individual felon.