Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1870385
 


 



Punishment Politics: Gubernatorial Rhetoric, Political Conflict, and the Instrumental Explanation of Mass Incarceration in the American States


Isaac Unah


University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Department of Political Science

Elizabeth Coggins


University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill

June 22, 2011


Abstract:     
The tension created by the drop in violent crime and the sustained increase in mass incarceration in the American states represents a phenomenon of great theoretical and policy relevance. Previous accounts of that tension have centered on theories of group conflict and instrumentalism. We argue here that the use of aggressive political rhetoric by state governors to communicate the crime problem is an important correlate of mass incarceration boom. Using data derived from content analysis of state-of-the-state addresses of governors from all 50 states, we test this rhetoric theory and evaluate its implications alongside instrumental and conflict-based explanations of mass incarceration. We find that gubernatorial rhetoric has strong effect on mass incarceration but that this effect is moderated by the institutional power of the governor. Instrumentalism is not supported. The key implication of our findings is that mass incarceration is overwhelmingly a policy consequence of the punitive political rhetoric employed by state leaders to exploit the crime problem and mobilize political support.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 44

Keywords: mass incarceration, criminal punishment, gubernatorial rhetoric, instrumentalism, crime and punishment

working papers series


Download This Paper

Date posted: June 24, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Unah, Isaac and Coggins, Elizabeth, Punishment Politics: Gubernatorial Rhetoric, Political Conflict, and the Instrumental Explanation of Mass Incarceration in the American States (June 22, 2011). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1870385 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1870385

Contact Information

Isaac Unah (Contact Author)
University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Department of Political Science ( email )
Department of Political Science
361 Hamilton Hall, CB#3265
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
United States
Elizabeth Coggins
University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill ( email )
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
United States
Feedback to SSRN


Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 540
Downloads: 101
Download Rank: 150,459

© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo4 in 0.797 seconds