skip navigation

Add your conference to our Justice Events calendar


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the NCJRS Abstracts Database. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.

  NCJ Number: NCJ 199364     Find in a Library
  Title: Measuring Public Perceptions of Appropriate Prison Sentences, Executive Summary
  Document URL: PDF 
  Dataset URL: DATASET 1
  Author(s): Mark A. Cohen ; Roland T. Rust ; Sara Steen
  Corporate Author: Vanderbilt University
United States of America
  Date Published: 10/2002
  Page Count: 39
  Series: NIJ Research Report
  Annotation: This executive summary reports on a study designed to test new methodologies for eliciting information about the public’s preferences regarding sentencing and parole of criminal offenders.
  Abstract: The authors explain that their study relied heavily on the well-established method used by Wolfgang, et al. of sampling a portion of the U.S. population and asking them to respond to a series of crime vignettes. The goal of such a method is to gauge public perception of the seriousness of different crimes. In this case, however, the authors used a constrained-choice model designed to force the respondent to first choose which of a series of crimes is more serious, and second, how much they would be willing to pay to reduce crime in their community. Other important aspects of this study included: (1) the focus on crimes normally encountered by local criminal justice agencies; (2) the focus on the parole decision in a constrained-choice model; and (3) the incorporation of explicit tradeoffs of various crimes and sentences to better gauge public preferences. The authors also employed two new methodologies designed to gain information on the public’s willingness to pay for crime prevention and control policies. A nationally representative survey of 1,300 U.S. adults found that, with two exceptions, the public largely agreed with current sentencing decisions concerning incarceration and length of sentence. The authors found strong support for spending more money to further reduce crimes, although most preferred that the money go toward prevention programs and more police officers rather than more prisons. Finally, the authors elicited information about willingness to pay for crime reduction and found that most respondents were willing to pay between $75 and $150 per year for prevention programs that would reduce local crime rates by 10 percent. In conclusion, the authors note that this study is relevant for policymakers who use seriousness-of-crime surveys to decide current criminal justice and police policies. Tables, references
  Main Term(s): Research methods ; Citizen reactions to crime
  Index Term(s): Crime surveys ; Crime seriousness measures ; Crime control policies ; Criminal justice system policy ; Reactions to crime ; NIJ grant-related documents
  Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
US Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
United States of America
  Grant Number: 1999-CE-VX-0001
  Sale Source: Vanderbilt University
21st Avenue, Sourth
Nashville, TN 37203
United States of America

NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
  Type: Report (Study/Research)
  Country: United States of America
  Language: English
  Note: See NCJ-199365 for the Final Report
  To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.