U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Pfeiffer: Sentencing Policy & Crime in Reunified Germany (Video)

NCJ Number
Christian Pfeiffer
Date Published
November 1994
0 pages
Christian Pfeiffer, director of the Kriminologisches Forschungsinstitut Niedersachsen in reunified Germany, reports on his organization's research on sentencing policy and crime in Germany.
Research on sentencing trends in Germany from 1890 through 1990 shows a persistent decline in the use of incarceration in sentencing and an increased use of community service and suspended sentences under probation. In recent years, this trend has been fueled by research findings that have traced sentencing patterns to the discretionary patterns of judges. The research has shown that judges' use of incarceration is related to their views of how crime can be best controlled. Judges tending to be more authoritarian used imprisonment sentences more often, whereas judges who favored the use of community-based approaches for sentencing and rehabilitation rarely used incarceration sentencing. The research showed that offenders sentenced to community-based services had better recidivism outcomes than those sentenced to incarceration. Given the structured interaction between judges and researchers in Germany, these research findings were shared with and discussed among researchers and judges in joint sessions. This led to a lessening of sentencing disparity among judges regarding the use of incarceration as the trend toward community-based sentencing increased. Other research reported by Pfeiffer pertained to the effectiveness of incarceration as a deterrent. The findings indicated that offenders were more concerned about the risk of getting caught for their crimes than they were about the potential severity of sentencing. This suggests that deterrence effectiveness should focus on improving police clearance rates rather than increasing the use of incarceration. The research reported on crime patterns in Germany and underlying causes focuses on socioeconomic and political factors. The manipulation of police crime figures for political purposes was one finding of the research. An analysis of the findings of the First Victimization survey in Germany is also discussed.