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NCJ Number: 69598 Find in a Library
Title: Attributional Approach to Accounts and Sanctions for Criminal Violence
Author(s): R B Felson; S A Ribner
Date Published: Unknown
Page Count: 17
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
US Dept of Health, Education, and Welfare
Washington, DC 20203
Grant Number: MH 17431
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America
Document: PDF
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The study examines 226 males incarcerated in New York State correctional facilities in 1977 for assault or homicide in terms of their accounts (excuses or justifications) and the sanctions they received.
Abstract: People engaged in deviant behavior are called upon to give accounts of their behavior. These can be explained in attributional terms. Thus, an excuse is a denial of personal causation, and a justification is an admission of personal causality but with an implication that some over-riding norm makes the act proper in the present context. In studying accounts and sanctions for homicide and assault, researchers expected to find that the more serious the offense, the more likely a denial of guilt, and that a denial of guilt would result in more severe sentences. Measurements were taken on the seriousness of the crime, prior arrest record, statement of intent to harm during the incident, commission of multiple physical attacks by the offender during the incident, and the maximum and minimum sentences imposed. Results show that justifications are much more frequent than excuses (over 50 percent versus 19 percent). In 31 percent of the cases, no account was given. Most justifications were self-defense. Excuses were more likely if the victim died or was female. The hypothesis that the more serious the crime, the more likely a denial of guilt was not supported. Rather, denial of guilt was related to high personal causation in past and present actions. As hypothesized, denials of guilt resulted in the most severe sentences. Sentences were least severe when offenders admitted guilt without providing an account. Unlike accounts for minor infractions, accounts for criminal homicide and assault appear to suggest a lack of penitence and thereby increase the severity of sanctioning. Six explanatory footnotes, three tables and a reference list are included.
Index Term(s): Attribution theory; Criminal responsibility; Inmates as research subjects; Personality assessment
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