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More Sanctions - Less Prison?: A Research Note on the Severity of Sanctions Proposed by Survey Participants and how it is Affected by the Option to Combine a Prison Term with Other Sanctions
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Criminology.
2014 (English)In: European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, ISSN 0928-1371, E-ISSN 1572-9869, Vol. 20, no 1, 121-136 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Public opinion has come to be given an increasingly important role in the crime policy debate of western countries. The task of problematising different pictures that emerges from different studies of public opinion on appropriate sentences thus becomes an important task. In this article the question is whether survey respondents, in their choice of reactions to crime, tend to propose shorter prison sentences when they combine the prison term with other measures? If so, different response instructions can lead to different conclusions as to what survey participants consider to be appropriate sentences. Earlier research points at such tendencies to some extent. In order to examine this question, two comparisons will be made. In the first, survey respondents who chose to combine a prison sentence with other measures is compared with those who chose to propose a prison sentence as the only sanction. In the second, participant who were instructed to only propose a single sanction will be compared with those who were given the opportunity to combine two sanctions. Both comparisons are made with regard to the lengths of the proposed prison sentences. No systematic differences emerge. The correlation between the length of prison term proposed and the choice, or opportunity given, to combine the prison term with other measures varies, for example, across the different offences examined. The choice of appropriate reactions to crime is based on a more advanced deliberation than whether different sanctions may be combined.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 20, no 1, 121-136 p.
Keyword [en]
Appropriate sentences, Public opinion, Response instructions
National Category
Law and Society
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-102279DOI: 10.1007/s10610-013-9215-5ISI: 000332015600006OAI: diva2:710085


Available from: 2014-04-04 Created: 2014-03-31 Last updated: 2015-03-05Bibliographically 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.
Avhandlingsserie / Kriminologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet, ISSN 1404-1820 ; 33
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
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)

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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