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Crime Views on Two Continents: An Exploratory Study of Views of Nigerian and U.S. College Students Toward Crime, Criminals, Treatment, and Punishment

NCJ Number
International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice Volume: 33 Issue: 1 Dated: Spring 2009 Pages: 17-36
O. Oko Elechi; Eric G. Lambert; Morris Jenkins; David N. Baker
Date Published
20 pages
This study compared views of Nigerian undergraduate college students regarding crime, criminals, punishment, and offender treatment with those of undergraduate college students in America.
There were significant differences in American and Nigerian students regarding crime and criminality. Generally, Nigerian respondents were more supportive of the punishment of criminals as the appropriate response to criminals, who were viewed as deserving harsh sentences and a punitive administration of sentences. On the other hand, there was more diversity and disagreement among the Nigerian students than among the American students regarding how offenders should be managed. A significant proportion of Nigerian students were more supportive of the treatment of offenders than was the case for most American respondents. This may be due to the strong emphasis on informal social control in Nigeria, where there is a cultural emphasis on family, friends, and neighbors dealing informally with offenders in efforts to change their behaviors. Only after such efforts have failed should the state intervene with formal punishment. The extremes of informal social control and state punitive intervention may stem from the cultural view that when individuals continue to commit crimes after every community rehabilitative effort has been attempted, the last resort is harsh, systematic punishment by the state. American students, on the other hand, may view the state as the primary entity responsible for addressing law violations. The study was conducted in the spring of 2005. At the two Nigerian universities, undergraduate students were asked to complete the survey voluntarily during class time. A total of 274 usable questionnaires were returned. For the American students, who were attending 1 university in the Midwest, 484 usable questionnaires were returned. 3 tables, 7 notes, and 39 references