Changing Beliefs about Crime and Punishment in American Society
Patrick R. Cundiff, Duane F. Alwin

Dramatic changes in the operation of the criminal justice system over the past quarter-century have been accompanied by significant shifts in beliefs about the punishment of criminals. Using data from the General Social Survey from 1972 to 2008, this study examines changes in beliefs about the courts’ handling of criminals. While there has been considerable change across time in all groups in society, the direction of that change has been quite variable. In a decomposition analysis, we investigate two major mechanisms of change in these beliefs—cohort replacement and intra-cohort change--while testing competing theoretical models for the social sources of public punitiveness. Analyzing change in different historical periods and geographic regions and within different segments of the population sheds new light on the processes of punitiveness and belief change in the U.S. since the 1970s.

Full Text: PDF DOI: 10.15640/jlcj.v3n1a4