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NCJ Number: 69709 Find in a Library
Title: Perceptions of Punishment for Crime
Journal: Deviant Behavior  Volume:1  Issue:2  Dated:(January-March 1980)  Pages:193-215
Author(s): D F Hawkins
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 23
Sponsoring Agency: University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: A survey questionnaire administered to 662 North Carolina undergraduates is used to assess patterns of perceptions of punishment.
Abstract: The purpose of the study was to explore (1) an adequate measurement for consensus in the rating of crime seriousness, (2) the extent of agreement among college students in rating the seriousness of offenses, and (3) possible subgroup differences in ratings given. Rather than directly rating the seriousness of offenses, college students were asked to select what level of punishment should be administered to people involved in 25 criminal acts. Factor analysis was used to determine whether crimes fell into distinct groupings on the basis of punishment assigned. The results indicate that the highest punishment ratings were assigned to violent crimes against persons, the second highest to white-collar crimes, and the lowest ratings to juvenile offenses. To examine subgroup differences in punishment assignment, analysis of variance and multiple classification analysis techniques were used. The data suggest substantial racial diffences in rating 15 of the 25 individual offenses. Fewer racial differences are noted for crimes against persons than for crimes against property, especially white-collar crimes. Overall, blacks tend to assign more punishment than whites. Although few significant differences are seen in punishment assignment among categories of family income, the lowest income group (below $10,000) tends to be most punitive. The data support many of the findings of past studies, while bringing into question earlier research noting few subgroup differences in the perception of crime seriousness. The article is supported by detailed statistical tables. The crimes rated, the rating scale, and 18 references are included.
Index Term(s): Attitudes; Crime seriousness measures; Offense classification; Penalty severity rating; Perception; Students
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