SAGE Journal Articles
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Abstract: None of the conventional explanations why American penal policies became so severe — rising crime rates, harsh public attitudes and cynical electoral politics — are persuasive. Nor are various `conditions of late modernity' such as the limited capacities of governments, increasing population diversity or increasing insecurity and risk aversion. All these things characterized every developed country in much of the period 1975—2000 and most did not adopt drastically harsher policies. Nor are such amorphous and over-generalized notions as `populist punitiveness', `penal populism' and neo-liberalism of much use. Some things do have explanatory power cross-nationally. Moderate penal policies and low imprisonment rates are associated with low levels of income inequality, high levels of trust and legitimacy, strong welfare states, professionalized as opposed to politicized criminal justice systems and consensual rather than conflictual political cultures. For each of those factors, the United States falls at the wrong end of the distribution. The question is, Why? Four answers stand out: the `paranoid style' in American politics; a Manichean moralism associated with fundamentalist religious views; the obsolescence of the American constitution; and the history of race relations in the USA.
Abstract: Theoretically, the media influences public perceptions of crime and criminality and helps shape perceptions of how the crime problem should be managed. Using a 2010 survey in Washington state, this article tests the theoretical connection between watching television (news, crime dramas, and police-reality programs), reading the newspaper, listening to the radio, interacting with the Internet, and support for capital punishment. Research in the area of perceptions of capital punishment shows that support for capital punishment varies depending on its operationalization; therefore, this study includes both a general measure of support for capital punishment and a measure that provides for the availability of life without parole as an alternative option. Variables including race, sex, age, attitudes toward the police, and perceptual variables such as collective efficacy, economic insecurity, and justice concerns are included as controls in the models. Findings indicate that the relationship between media consumption and capital punishment is dependent on both the media form/channel and the operationalization of capital punishment.