A person is caught stealing groceries from a supermarket. How should the justice system sanction such behavior?
In the modern system of criminal justice, the sentence imposed on such a perpetrator should prevent that person from repeating the crime, demonstrate to society that such behavior is undesirable hence punishable, penalize the person for the morally wrong deed, and try to rehabilitate the criminal. As analyzed by Becker (1968), deterrence relies on the postulate that the threat of criminal punishment alters the cost-benefit calculation of rational agents.
But what if it doesn’t?