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July 29, 2011

"Punishment Politics: Gubernatorial Rhetoric, Political Conflict, and the Instrumental Explanation of Mass Incarceration in the American States"

The title of this post is the title of this new piece on SSRN by two researchers at the University of North Carolina. Here is the abstract:

The tension created by the drop in violent crime and the sustained increase in mass incarceration in the American states represents a phenomenon of great theoretical and policy relevance. Previous accounts of that tension have centered on theories of group conflict and instrumentalism.  We argue here that the use of aggressive political rhetoric by state governors to communicate the crime problem is an important correlate of mass incarceration boom.

Using data derived from content analysis of state-of-the-state addresses of governors from all 50 states, we test this rhetoric theory and evaluate its implications alongside instrumental and conflict-based explanations of mass incarceration.  We find that gubernatorial rhetoric has strong effect on mass incarceration but that this effect is moderated by the institutional power of the governor. Instrumentalism is not supported. The key implication of our findings is that mass incarceration is overwhelmingly a policy consequence of the punitive political rhetoric employed by state leaders to exploit the crime problem and mobilize political support.

July 29, 2011 at 10:14 AM | Permalink


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Crime Shows and Sensational Interests: An Exploratory Examination of Students in Criminal Justice Related Majors (pdf)

Monica L. P. Robbers, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice
Marymount University

It has been assumed for many years that people who commit sadistic or other violent crime possess an unhealthy fascination with violence and death. Numerous studies have focused on levels of such sensational interests among criminal populations with a view to rehabilitation. What appears to be missing from current literature is an examination of sensational interests among those who work with, or aspire to work with, criminal populations. Further, we have yet to examine whether prolonged exposure to popular media influences levels of sensational interests. Using a quasi-experimental design, this study compares levels of sensational interests among 240 students in criminal justice related majors with non-criminal justice majors using an adapted version of the Sensational Interests Questionnaire (SIQ), and the effect that popular media has on sensational interests. In keeping with previous tests of sensational interests, personality traits are also examined. Results from the study indicate students in criminal justice related majors have significantly higher levels of sensational interests than non-criminal justice related majors, and the number of hours spent watching crime related television shows is the best predictor of sensational interests. Further, there are a number of similarities found between predictors of sensational interests for students in criminal justice related majors and predictors of sensational interests among offenders examined in earlier studies. Implications from the study for criminal justice educators and practitioners are discussed.

Posted by: George | Jul 29, 2011 5:54:32 PM

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