"Get tough" control policies in the United States are often portrayed as the reflection of the public's will: Americans are punitive and want offenders locked up. Research from the past decade both reinforces and challenges this assessment. The public clearly accepts, if not prefers, a range of punitive policies (e.g., capital punishment, three-strikes-and-you're-out laws, imprisonment). But support for get-tough policies is "mushy." Thus citizens may be willing to substitute a sentence of life imprisonment without parole for the death penalty. Especially when nonviolent offenders are involved, there is substantial support for intermediate sanctions and for restorative justice. Despite three decades of criticism, rehabilitation-particularly for the young-remains an integral part of Americans' correctional philosophy. There is also widespread support for early intervention programs. In the end, the public shows a tendency to be punitive and progressive, wishing the correctional system to achieve the diverse missions of doing justice, protecting public safety, and reforming the wayward.
Published in Crime and Justice, Volume 27, 2000, pages 1-79.
Cullen, F.T., Fisher, B.S. and Applegate, B.K. (2000). Public Opinion about Punishment and Corrections. Crime and Justice, 27, 1-79.
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