Penal Populism and Public Opinion: Lessons from Five Countries

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Although criminal justice systems vary greatly around the world, one theme has emerged in all western jurisdictions in recent years: a rise in both the rhetoric and practice of severe punishment at a time when public opinion has played a pivotal role in sentencing policy and reforms. Despite the differences among jurisdictions, startling commonalities exist among the five countries-the U.K., USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand--surveyed here. Drawing on the results of representative opinion surveys and other research tools the authors map public attitudes towards crime and punishment across countries and explore the congruence between public views and actual policies. Co-authored by four distinguished sentencing policy experts, Penal Populism and Public Opinion is a clarion call for limiting the influence of penal populism and instituting more informed, research- based sentencing policies across the western world.
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About the author

Julian V. Roberts is Professor of Criminology at the University of Ottawa. Loretta Stalans is Professor of Psychology at Loyola University, Chicago. David Indermaur is a Professor at the Law School of the University of Western Australia. Mike Hough is a Professor in the Department of Social Policy at South Bank University, London.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Dec 5, 2002
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Pages
264
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ISBN
9780195350487
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Criminal Law / General
Social Science / Criminology
Social Science / Penology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Should public opinion determine--or even influence--sentencing policy and practice? Should the punishment of criminal offenders reflect what the public regards as appropriate? These deceptively simple questions conceal complex theoretical and methodological challenges to the administration of punishment. In the West, politicians have often answered these questions in the affirmative; penal reforms have been justified with direct reference to the attitudes of the public. This is why the contention that politicians should bridge the gap between the public and criminal justice practice has widespread resonance. Criminal law scholars, for their part, have often been more reluctant to accept public input in penal practice, and some have even held that the idea of consulting public opinion constitutes a populist approach to punishment. The purpose of this book is to examine the moral significance of public opinion for penal theory and practice. For the first time in a single volume the editors, Jesper Ryberg and Julian V. Roberts, have assembled a number of respected criminologists, philosophers, and legal theorists to address the various aspects of why and how public opinion should be reflected in the way the criminal justice system deals with criminals. The chapters address the myriad complexities surrounding this issue by first weighing the justifications for incorporating public views into punishment practices and then considering the various ways this might be achieved through juries, prosecutors, restorative justice programs, and other means.
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