The Impact of Different Forms of Knowledge in Attitudes to Sentencing

Becca Chapman, Home Office, London

Pevious research in the United Kingdom and other countries has found that public knowledge of crime and sentencing is poor, with widely held views that sentencing is more lenient than is the case. This associated with punitive attitudes and lack of confidence in the criminal justice system. This paper will report the findings of a project that was commissioned by the Home Office to explore how information can be disseminated and what effects this can have on confidence and attitudes towards crime and sentencing. A large survey exploring attitudes to sentencing and sentencing purposes was carried out (n-1022). Groups of the participants in the survey were then exposed to information about crime and sentencing via either a booklet, video, or attending a seminar. Respondents were then re-interviewed and change in attitudes and reactions to the types of media explored. This paper will discuss the impact of knowledge on attitudes, the differeing effects of the different media types, and the reception to them. It will draw conclusions about how information can best be used to inform the public and reduce punitiveness.

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Updated 05/20/2006