How Does Punishment Affect Reintegration? Attitudes Toward Islamic State "Collaborators" in Iraq

50 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2021

See all articles by Mara Redlich Revkin

Mara Redlich Revkin

Duke Law School

Kristen Kao

University of Gothenburg; University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Political Science

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2021


How does variation in the severity of punishment affect public opinion toward the reintegration of former nonviolent offenders? We study this question in the context of Iraq, where the United States has been heavily involved in the design and development of criminal justice institutions since overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in 2003. Building upon extensive fieldwork and interviews in Iraq, we designed a survey experiment that randomly varied the severity of sentences in hypothetical scenarios of nonviolent Islamic State “collaborators” (e.g., cleaners, cooks, and wives of fighters) to estimate the causal effects of punishment on attitudes toward reintegration. We find that a long prison sentence (15 years) does not increase the participants’ willingness to allow the reintegration of former offenders, but a noncarceral punishment (community service) has a small, but statistically significant, positive effect. Our most striking finding is that noncarceral and community-based justice mechanisms can significantly increase the likelihood of successful reintegration after punishment. Fifteen percent of respondents who were initially opposed to the return of former offenders to their communities said that they would be willing to support reintegration if they were asked to do so by a tribal or religious leader, or if the offender completes a noncarceral rehabilitation program. These findings suggest that noncarceral, restorative, and community-based justice mechanisms may be equally or more effective than long-term incarceration for achieving the objectives of rehabilitation and eventual reintegration of former nonviolent offenders. Our study also advances the field of comparative empirical legal scholarship by providing an innovative experimental research design that can be replicated by scholars studying the causal effects of criminal justice policies in other contexts.

Keywords: civil wars, peacebuilding, post-conflict reconciliation, transitional justice, survey experiment, Islamic State, Iraq

Suggested Citation

Revkin, Mara Redlich and Kao, Kristen, How Does Punishment Affect Reintegration? Attitudes Toward Islamic State "Collaborators" in Iraq (2021). Program on Governance and Local Development Working Paper No. 41, Available at SSRN: or

Mara Redlich Revkin (Contact Author)

Duke Law School ( email )

Box 90360
Durham, NC 27708-0360
United States

HOME PAGE: http://

Kristen Kao

University of Gothenburg ( email )

Viktoriagatan 30
Göteborg, 405 30

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Political Science

Los Angeles, CA
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics