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NCJ Number: 70229 Find in a Library
Title: Sentencing of Convicted Offenders - An Analysis of the Public's View
Journal: Law and Society Review  Volume:14  Issue:2  Dated:(Winter 1980)  Pages:223-261
Author(s): A Blumstein; J Cohen
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 39
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This survey of public attitudes about appropriate prison sentences for convicted offenders arises from the need to know the public's view of the 'just deserts' model which is displacing the rehabilitation model.
Abstract: In the spring of 1977, the survey was administered to a random sample of 2,500 households in Pennsylvania with questions regarding demographic information, extent of victimization among respondents, and respondents' attitudes on appropriate prison terms for convicted offenders. The two main issues addressed were the degree of consensus within the population about appropriate sentences for different offenses and the relationship between the desired sentences expressed by the public and the actual time served by offenders in prison. Analysis suggests considerable agreement across various demographic groups on the relative severity of sentences to be imposed for different offenses, but it also shows disagreement over the absolute magnitude of these sentences. These results indicate both the feasibility of generating consensus on a proportional, just desert sentencing schedule and the difficulty in establishing the 'constant of proportionality.' The sentences desired by the public are found to be consistently more severe than sentences actually imposed, implying the need for greater public awareness of current imprisonment practices so that expectations of the determinate sentencing schedules will be realistic and consistent with limited prison capacity. Attention would have to be paid to such problems as prison overcrowding, budgetary constraints, and the deleterious effects of imprisonment on inmates and society in general. Extensive supporting tables and 33 references are provided. (Author abstract modified)
Index Term(s): Crime seriousness measures; Just deserts theory; Penalty severity rating; Pennsylvania; Public Attitudes/Opinion; Sentencing/Sanctions; Surveys
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