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Beyond crime seriousness: Fitting the punishment to the crime

Abstract

This paper presents an exposition of how the factorial survey approach may enhance empirical assessments of the complex judgment principles involved in public views of just punishments for convicted offenders. Ratings of the appropriateness of sentences given across 50 typical crimes obtained from a household sample (N=774) of the Boston SMSA and several special-interest samples in 1982 are examined in three alternative ordinary least-squares (OLS) regression equations. These analyses show there is not a one-to-one direct relationship between public perceptions of the seriousness of criminal acts and desired sanctions. Crime seriousness is modified by the characteristics of the offenders and victims and by the consequences of the crimes. Preferred punishments also vary in severity by demographic, experiential, and attitudinal characteristics of the persons who make the judgments.

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Rossi, P.H., Simpson, J.E. & Miller, J.L. Beyond crime seriousness: Fitting the punishment to the crime. J Quant Criminol 1, 59–90 (1985). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01065249

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Key words

  • factorial surveys
  • vignette studies
  • crime seriousness
  • just punishments