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NCJ Number: 199893 Find in a Library
Title: Measuring Attitudes to Sentencing (From Changing Attitudes to Punishment: Public Opinion, Crime and Justice, P 15-32, 2002, Julian V. Roberts, and Mike Hough, eds., -- See NCJ-199891)
Author(s): Loretta J. Stalans
Date Published: 2002
Page Count: 18
Sponsoring Agency: Willan Publishing
Portland, OR 97213-3644
Sale Source: Willan Publishing
c/o ISBS, 5804 N.E. Hassalo Street
Portland, OR 97213-3644
United States of America
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Book (Hardbound)
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This chapter discusses the different ways the public forms attitudes toward punishment in the United States.
Abstract: There are two contrasting images of the public attitudes toward punishment. One is the idea of a punitive public that demands long prison terms. The other is an image of a merciful public that supports rehabilitation, community-based sentences, and less severe sentences than the law allows. These two contrasting images emerge because researchers measure attitudes in a variety of ways and often ignore how the public interprets and integrates information in coming to their attitudes toward punishment. It is important to know about the structure of attitudes in memory in order to understand how public attitudes change. An attitude is an internal state that is “expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor.” Attitudes are not isolated in memory from other attitudes and beliefs. Attitudes are stored in memory in an associative network. Some attitudes are more easily recalled than others. The strength of an attitude refers to its persistence over time, its resistance to persuasive appeals, and its impact on behavior or the processing of information. There are three strategies that people use to process information: discounting and counter-arguing, representative heuristic, and availability heuristic. There are three findings that are used as evidence that the public does not have prior opinions about the sentencing of criminal offenders. The first finding is that pubic sentencing preferences for the same case are different on different occasions. The second finding is that there is consensus among the public about the relative seriousness of different crimes: violent crimes are always seen as more serious and deserving of more severe punishment than property crime. The third finding is that the public is ill informed about the cost of sanctions, about alternative community-based sanctions, and about other aspects of the criminal justice system. One way to make people think in a more systematic and careful manner is to lead them to believe that they will be accountable for their attitude/decisions and have to explain their decision to other people. 1 figure, 2 notes, 39 references
Main Term(s): Public Attitudes/Opinion; Public Opinion of Corrections
Index Term(s): Attitude measurement; Attitudes; Crime surveys; Economic impact of prisons; Opposition to prison construction; Public education
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