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Fear of Crime and Sentencing Punitiveness: Comparing the General Public and Court Practitioners

NCJ Number
Canadian Journal of Criminology Volume: 33 Issue: 2 Dated: (April 1991) Pages: 149-162
M Ouimet; E J Coyle
Date Published
14 pages
This study investigated fear of crime as an independent variable in the explanation of sentencing punitiveness.
An opinion survey of the public and court practitioners was conducted to examine perceptions about fear of crime, individual victimization experience, perceived fear of crime, and appropriate sentences for specific criminal case scenarios. The general public survey was administered to a representative sample of 299 French-speaking residents in Montreal. Slightly more than half the respondents were women, and the average age of the sample was 36 years. The court practitioner survey involved a stratified sample of 235 individuals in Montreal. Survey results demonstrated that fear of crime did not affect the punitiveness of public respondents in sentencing. Criminal justice practitioners tended to underestimate the number of people for whom crime had the least and most salience. Perceived fear of crime only influenced court practitioners' sentence recommendations for less serious offenses. More serious offense sanctions were better explained by the practitioner's role in the courtroom. 32 references, 4 tables, and 6 notes (Author abstract modified)


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