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Contradictory Expectations on Society's Reaction to Crime: A Qualitative Study of How People View the Objectives of Society's Reaction to Crime and How These Objectives Can Be Fulfilled
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Criminology.
(English)In: Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention, ISSN 1404-3858, E-ISSN 1651-2340Article in journal (Refereed) Accepted
Abstract [en]

The intention of this study was to develop an understanding of the views of the public on, first, what the objective(s) of society’s reaction to crime should be, and second, how different types of sanctions are perceived as being able to fulfill these objectives. A thematic analysis was conducted on the basis of transcripts of group interviews. The participants argued that society’s reaction should signal condemnation of the crime and at the same time be beneficial in relation to the re-socialisation of the offender. Sanctions that were perceived to fulfill the signaling of condemnation, i.e. tangible custodial sanctions, were described as being counterproductive in relation to the resocialisation of the offender. On the other hand, the signal of caring for the offender was perceived as having a neutralizing effect on the signal of condemnation. For the objective of society’s reaction to be fulfilled it thus has to give the illusion of being tangible and harsh but at the same time, in reality, must serve as an effective, lasting deterrent to the offender. It is suggested that the contradictions and tensions surrounding the objectives of society’s reaction to crime, and the issue of how these contradictions might be considered when framing crime policy, should be opened up as a matter for discussion in the public debate.

Keyword [en]
Society's reaction to crime, public opinion, punishment, crime, Scandinavia, Sweden
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Criminology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-92904OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-92904DiVA: diva2:643161
Available from: 2013-08-26 Created: 2013-08-26 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Public's Sense of Justice in Sweden - a Smorgasbord of Opinions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Public's Sense of Justice in Sweden - a Smorgasbord of Opinions
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The public’s views on what constitute appropriate reactions to crime, have come to assume an increasingly central position in the crime policy rhetoric of western countries. In Sweden this manifests itself in recurrent referrals to the public’s sense of justice. Any clear definitions of what the public’s sense of justice is, how it is expressed and how it can be read are however absent from these referrals.

In this thesis the use of referrals to the public’s sense of justice as a legitimizing ground for penal legislation is problematized from an empirical perspective. Paper I points out the substantial variation found in the public’s view on what constitutes appropriate sentences. According to Paper II society’s reactions to crime are expected to fulfill different, and often contradictory, objectives simultaneously. Paper III also points to the assumption that views on what constitutes appropriate sentences are based on deliberations where different dimensions of society’s reaction are weighed against each other.

The public’s sense of justice, thus, consists of diverse, variable and complex opinions. Referrals to it as a legitimizing ground for changes in penal legislation becomes a matter of choice between whose and which opinion it is that should be emphasized. For this choice to be perceived as legitimate it should not be made without at the same time motivating it.

If crime policy is to be both knowledge-based and fitted to the public’s sense of justice the public must be given the opportunity to develop an informed and well-grounded sense of justice. Especially since, compared to other political matters, crime policy and its consequences are something that only a small portion of the public comes into direct contact with. The suggestion is that the public criminal policy debate is framed so that it matches the complexity of the public’s sense of justice itself.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Criminology, Stockholm University, 2013. 56 p.
Series
Avhandlingsserie / Kriminologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet, ISSN 1404-1820 ; 33
Keyword
Public’s sense of justice, public opinion, appropriate sentences, penal legislation, Sweden, Scandinavia, surveys
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Criminology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-92901 (URN)978-91-7447-736-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-09-27, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Accepted. Paper 3: Accepted.

Available from: 2013-09-05 Created: 2013-08-26 Last updated: 2015-03-05Bibliographically approved

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