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Criminal Justice

Free Psychology Essays

The Factors at Play When a Person Decides to Commit a Crime

Crime is an interesting societal phenomenon since this vice is constantly present in society despite people seeing the repercussions that have befallen others who have being caught in acts of crime. According to the 2014 statistical information presented by Federal Bureau of Investigation (2015), among 1,165,383 violent crimes were rape, murder, and robberies among others. Moreover, the staggering number of 8,277,829 property crimes presented an approximated cost to the victims of around $14.3 billion (FBI, 2015). These statistics paint a picture that crime in American society is a vice that has become an indispensable part of society. More to say, in 2014, in the USA, approximately 1,561,500 prisoners were held in both the state and federal correction facilities (Carson, 2015). With the high level of incarceration, hard crime, and economic crime, criminal behavior is a vice that needs to be curbed. The only way to achieve this is through an in-depth understanding that can be reached through the insights provided by a person involved in crime. Therefore, a question arises as to what makes people commit a crime despite knowing that others who did the same were arrested and they serve their time in correction facilities. Thus, this paper aims at capturing the factors at play when a person decides to commit a crime by identifying the factors behind the frequent occurrence of criminal acts.

An Interview with an Incarcerated Person

In an attempt to understand the variables at play when a crime is committed, there is the need to get a firsthand information from an incarcerated person. The rationale behind this approach is to get the personal view on the reason the person has decided to be involved in crime despite being aware of the possible repercussions. Moreover, to capture a detailed understanding of the matter, a close correlation of the feedback from the interview and the assertion in a crime theory is necessary for understanding crime from all angles. Therefore, to have an personal insight on criminal behavior, I undertook an interview with a cousin who is currently serving time for carjacking. To ensure that all the necessary data for this project was captured, I asked the following questions.

  • Me: “Why did decide to be involved in the crime?”

  • Cousin: “This was a channel that I saw could have brought me quick”, he then added, “I knew if I got a good car, getting a buyer would have been very simple.”

  • Me: “Were you coerced into committing the crime?”

  • Cousin: “No, it was my decision to commit the crime; this was a chance that I saw would help me get quick cash.” He added that “I kept the plan all to myself to ensure that there were no loopholes that could have jeopardized the plan.”

  • Me: “Were you fully aware that carjacking could land you in jail?”

  • Cousin: “Of course, I knew, but no one commits a crime thinking he or she will be arrested.” He added, “When one is about to commit a crime the reason towards committing a crime are usually more than those against, and one tries to do his or her best and improve what the previous person did.”

  • Me: “Were you aware of other cases of a carjacking that went wrong, leaving the culprit incarcerated?”

  • Cousin: “Yes, I was aware of one case where a close friend of mine was caught and locked up for seven years,” he then pointed out that “I did all I could to make sure that I did not fall victim as my friend did, and surely I tried my best.”

  • Me: “What is different about carjacking in your current situation as compared to the moments before you committed the crime?”

  • Cousin: “Well, there is nothing positive about being involved in any form of crime; you might think that you are clever but a crime is a crime, and nothing positive will ever come out of it.”

From the interview, it has been clear that criminal behavior remains a personal decision that one makes thinking that the positive side will be more than the negative side. Moreover, the understanding is that the people aiming to commit a crime do a background check on the existing failures to identify those that have led to the capture of the earlier culprits. Furthermore, it is evident that criminal behavior solely depends on one’s perception of the potential benefits and the potential loss that the action is about to deliver. When the positives supersede the negatives, there comes the point when a person gets involved in the identified crime.

Correlation with the Theory

In an attempt to analyze the rationale behind the assertions made by the interviewee, correlating these assertions with a criminology theory is necessary. Rational Choice Theory (RCT) provides the insights that are in line with what the interviewee has pointed out. According to RCT, criminal behavior is in no way different from non-criminal behavior by the mere fact that in both types of the behavior, it is the individual who chooses to be involved (Maguire & Duffee, 2015). This assertion upholds the assertions made by the interviewee that indeed, no one had coerced him into committing the carjacking.

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Another component of the interview supported by RCT is the fact that people commit crimes for economic gains. The interviewee had indicated that carjacking was his ticket to a make some quick money. More to say, RCT has the same point that people get into crime after having considering the cost and the benefit of their actions. According to the theory, criminals weigh these two options, and the triggering factor is that to them, committing the crime presents an action full of benefits that supersede the costs (Maguire & Duffee, 2015). Moreover, the theory affirms that people commit a crime under the cost and benefit consideration, and this is the reason why criminals are not involved in crime all the time.

It should be mentioned that according to RCT, before committing a crime, the culprit weighs the cost and benefit of not only the criminal activities but also the alternative non-criminal activity. This means that people get into criminal acts if (and only if) they weigh the options and find that criminal acts have more benefits as compared to the alternative option. In the case of the interviewee, his carjacking action was based on the fact that the action presented a way, through which he would have made good money swiftly. Additionally, it is the assertion that criminals are usually aware of the repercussions that have befallen other culprits but they do enough to their understanding to prevent the same eventuality. Similarly, in the theory, it is the assertion that people get into crime only after verifying the possible utility emanating from the crime (Maguire & Duffee, 2015). These assertions were present in the interview, where the interviewee had indicated that no one got into a crime thinking he or she would be arrested. If so, they would not contemplate being involved. This phenomenon is also indicated in RCT, where the crime is presented as non-daily engagement. This is the reason for the interviewee’s assertion that under the current circumstances, to him, crime has no positive parameter and indication that the assertions of the presence of rational thinking in RCT are valid. Therefore, criminal acts are worth being acted upon by the culprit as long as they outweigh the benefits of non-criminal acts. This is a clear indication that despite the results, the element of rationality is usually present when a person out of self-will makes a decision to commit a crime.


It is clear that criminals do not get into crime as a result of environmental pressure or peer pressure but as a result of a choice that has a degree of rationality. Moreover, economic gains form one of the primary goals, through which many criminal acts are committed as indicated in both the theory and the feedback from the interview. Furthermore, it is clear that before one engages in crime, a degree of rationality is applied by the culprit as he or she weighs the possible repercussions. It is also clear that a criminal considers his criminal behavior just like the normal one since in both types of behaviors, self-will is the main component, leading to a final decision-making. Moreover, it is clear that the continuity of crime is a result of the potential benefits crime continues to attract. Thus, it valid to argue that criminal acts are the products of self-will, economic gain, motivation, and the element of rationality that will continue to be a part of the society as long as rational choice remains.


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