Public Attitudes and Sentencing Policies Across the World

Article

Abstract

Many Western countries have experienced a boom in prisoners rates, characterised as “carceral hyperinflation” or “new punitiveness”. Politicians and opinion makers assume that this reflects the demand of the public for more severe sentencing. This article analyses data on the attitudes of the population towards punishment from over thirty different countries taken from the International Crime Victim Surveys of 2004/2005. First, some key findings on punitivity are presented showing that in many countries the public prefers non-custodial sentences for recidivist buglars. Next, results are presented from a multi-level analysis of the correlates of punitiveness at both the individual and country level. This multi level analysis shows that individual characteristics explain very little variance in country differences in punitiveness. On country level, the level of common crime and the Gini coefficient, a measure for income differences in the country, have significant explanatory power. The often mentioned tougher attitude towards sentencing in the English speaking/common law countries is fully explained by this. Finally, the relation between the publics attitude towards sentencing and a measure of actual sentencing severity showed a weak and inverse relationship at country level.

Keywords

International comparison Multi level analysis Prisoners rates Punitivity 

References

  1. Besserer, S. (2001). Attitudes toward sentencing in nine industrialized countries. In N. P. (Ed.), Crime Victimization in Comparative Perspective. Results from the International Crime Victims Survey, 1989–2000. The Hague: Boom Legal Publishers.Google Scholar
  2. Boers, K., & Sessar, K. (1988). Do people really want punishment? On the relationship between acceptance of restitution, needs for punishment, and fear of crime. In K. e. K. Sessar, H. (Ed.), Developments in crime and crime control research. German studies on victims, offenders, and the public. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  3. Buikhuisen, W., & Van Dijk, J. J. M. (1975). Verbaliseringsbeleid Misdrijven. Den Haag: WODC.Google Scholar
  4. CBS (2008). Kerncijfers, veiligheid en recht.Google Scholar
  5. Costelloe, M. T., Chiricos, T. B., J., & Gertz, M. M.-K., D. (2002). The social correlates of punitiveness toward criminals: a comparison of the Czech Republic and Florida. Justice System Journal, 1, (2002).Google Scholar
  6. Doob, A. N., & Webster, C. M. (2006). Countering punitiveness: understanding stability in Canada’s imprisonment rate law & society. Law & Society Review, 40(2), 325–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Farrington, D. P., Langan, P. A., & Tonry, M. (2004). Cross-National Studies in Crime and Justice (Vol. NCJ 200988). Washington, DC: Office of Justice Programs.Google Scholar
  8. Garland, D. (2001). The culture of control. Crime and social order in contemporary societies. Oxford: Oxford U.P.Google Scholar
  9. Haen-Marshall, I. (1998). Operation of the Criminal Justice system. In K. Kangaspunta, M. Joutsen, & N. Ollus (Eds.), Crime and Criminal Justice Systems in Europe and North America, 1990–1994 (Publication Series No. 32). Helsinki: HEUNI.Google Scholar
  10. Killias, M. (1989). La Suisses Face au Crime. Grüss: Verlag Rüegger.Google Scholar
  11. Kuhn, H. (1993). Attitudes towards punishment. In A. Alvazzi del Frate, U. Zvekic, & J. J. M. Van Dijk (Eds.), Understanding Crime. Experiences of Crime and Crime Control. Rome: UNICRI.Google Scholar
  12. Kury, H., Dörmann, U., Richter, H., & Würger, M. (1992). Opfererfahrungen und Meinungen zur Inneren Sicherheit in Deutschland. Wiesbaden: Bundeskriminalamt.Google Scholar
  13. Kury, H., Obergfell-Fuchs, J., & Smartt, U. (2002). The evolution of public attitudes to punishment in Western and Eastern Europe. In J. V. Roberts, & M. Hough (Eds.), Changing Attitudes to Punishment, Public opinion, Crime and Justice. Devon: Willan Publishing.Google Scholar
  14. Kühnrich, B., & Kania, H. (2005). Attitudes towards punishment in the European Union. Results from the 2005 European Crime Survey (ECSS) with focus on Germany. Brussels: Gallup-Europe.Google Scholar
  15. Mayhew, P., & Van Dijk, J. J. M. (1997). Criminal Victimisation in eleven Industrialised Countries. Key findings from the 1996 International Crime Victims Survey (Vol. 196). The Hague: WODC.Google Scholar
  16. Mayhew, P., & Van Kesteren, J. N. (2002). Cross-national attitudes to punishment. In J. V. Roberts, & M. Hough (Eds.), Changing Attitudes to Punishment, Public opinion, Crime and Justice. Devon: Willan Publishing.Google Scholar
  17. Pratt, J. D., Brown, M., Hallsworth, S., & Morrison, M. E. (2005). The New Punitiveness: Trends, Theories, Perspectives. Cullompton: Willan Publishing.Google Scholar
  18. Roberts, J. V., & Hough, M. (Eds.). (2002). Changing Attitudes to Punishment, Public opinion, Crime and Justice. Devon: Willan Publishing.Google Scholar
  19. Sessar, K. (1992). Wiedergutmachen oder strafen. Einstellungen in der Bevölkerung und der Justiz. Pfaffenweiler: Centaurus.Google Scholar
  20. Sung, H. E. (2006). Democracy and criminal justice in cross-national perspective: From crime control to due process. The Annals of th American Academy of Political and Social Science. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  21. Van der Kooij, A. J., Neufeglise, P., & Meulmann, J. J. (2001). CATREG, categorical multiple regression with optimal scaling (revised and updated version). Chicago: SPSS Inc.Google Scholar
  22. Van Dijk, J. J. M. (2008). The World of Crime. Breaking the silence on problems of security, justice and development across the world. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  23. Van Dijk, J. J. M., & Mayhew, P. (1992). Criminal victimization in the Industrialized World: Key findings of the 1989 and 1992 International Crime Surveys.Google Scholar
  24. Van Dijk, J. J. M., Mayhew, P., & Killias, M. (1990). Experiences of crime across the world: Key findings from the 1989 International Crime Survey. Deventer: Kluwer Law and Taxation.Google Scholar
  25. Van Dijk, J. J. M., Manchin, R., Van Kesteren, J. N., & Hideg, G. (2007). The Burden of Crime in the EU, A Comparative Analysis of the European Survey of Crime and Safety (EU ICS) 2005. Brussels: Gallup Europe.Google Scholar
  26. Van Dijk, J. J. M., Van Kesteren, J. N., & Smit, P. (2008). Criminal Victimisation in International Perspective, Key findings from the 2004–2005 ICVS and EU ICS. The Hague: Boom Legal Publishers.Google Scholar
  27. Van Kesteren, J. N. (2007). Integrated Database from the International Crime Victims Survey (ICVS) 1989–2005, codebook and data. Tilburg: INTERVICT, Tilburg University.Google Scholar
  28. Van Kesteren, J. N., Mayhew, P., & Nieuwbeerta, P. (2000). Criminal Victimisation in Seventeen Industrialised Countries: Key-findings from the 2000 International Crime Victims Survey. The Hague: WODC, Ministry of Justice.Google Scholar
  29. Van Kesteren, J. N., & Van Dijk, J. J. M. (forthcoming, 2009). Key Victimological Findings from the International Crime Victims Survey. In P. Knepper (Ed.), International Handbook of Vicitmology.Google Scholar
  30. Walker, N., & Hough, M. (1988). Public attitudes to sentencing. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tillburg UniversityTilburgNetherlands

Personalised recommendations