Criminal Justice Faculty Publications and Presentations

Personal and Vicarious Experience with the Criminal Justice System as a Predictor of Punitive Sentencing Attitudes

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This study examined the impact of prior personal or vicarious experience with the criminal justice system on sentencing attitudes. Existing research on sentencing attitudes has examined factors such as race, gender, income level, political affiliation, and education level, but few research studies have focused on actual contact with the criminal justice system and its influence on perceptions of sentencing as either too harsh or too lenient. The current study utilized data collected by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. Over 1,500 respondents were surveyed nationwide in 2006 regarding sentencing attitudes. Logistic regression analysis was utilized to assess the impact of factors of interest on sentencing attitudes. Results indicated that individuals who had been charged with a crime (personal experience), or who had an immediate relative or close friend who had been charged (vicarious experience), were more likely to perceive the criminal justice system as too harsh, regardless of race/ethnicity.


Copyright © 2011, Southern Criminal Justice Association

Publication Title

Am J Crim Just