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Public Attitudes toward Punishment, Rehabilitation, and Reform: Lessons from the Marquette Law School Poll

6 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2016  

Michael M. O'Hear

Marquette University - Law School

Darren Wheelock

Marquette University Department of Social and Cultural Sciences

Date Written: October 27, 2016

Abstract

Since the late 1990s, many opinion surveys have suggested that the American public may be growing somewhat less punitive and more open to reforms that emphasize rehabilitation over incarceration. In order to assess current attitudes toward punishment, rehabilitation, and the criminal justice system, we collected survey data of 804 registered voters in Wisconsin. Among other notable results, we found strong support for rehabilitation and for the early release of prisoners who no longer pose a threat to public safety. However, we also found significant divisions in public opinion. For instance, while black and white respondents largely shared the same priorities for the criminal justice system, black respondents tended to see the system as less successful in achieving those priorities. Additionally, we found significant differences in the views of Democrats and Republicans, with Republicans more likely to favor punishment as a top priority and Democrats more likely to support rehabilitation. Finally, we found that survey respondents that hold negative views of African Americans are significantly less likely to support rehabilitation, even after statistically controlling for the other variables in the model.

Keywords: Rehabilitation, Criminal Law, Reform, Survey, Poll, Public Opinion

Suggested Citation

O'Hear, Michael M. and Wheelock, Darren, Public Attitudes toward Punishment, Rehabilitation, and Reform: Lessons from the Marquette Law School Poll (October 27, 2016). Federal Sentencing Reporter, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2016; Marquette Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 16-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2860365

Michael M. O'Hear (Contact Author)

Marquette University - Law School ( email )

Sensenbrenner Hall
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201
United States
414-288-3587 (Phone)
414-288-5914 (Fax)

Darren Wheelock

Marquette University Department of Social and Cultural Sciences ( email )

United States

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