How Criminology Affects Punishment: Analyzing Conditions Under Which Scientific Information Affects Sanction Policy Decisions
Center for Law & Behavior Research Paper No. 2023-02
32 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2023
Date Written: October 18, 2023
Criminology has a strong potential to impact criminal justice policy. It is thought that criminology fails to shape policy because of the political context of such policies. The present study analyses, however, whether criminological knowledge has the capacity to shape policy decision making in the absence of an explicit political context. We do so through a vignette study (N = 212) comparing how participants make criminal sanction policy decisions with or without reading criminological findings about the deterrent effect of longer sentences and whether this can be influenced by making harm to victims salient. The study finds that criminological science can impact policy decision making outside an explicit political context, also with salient harm to victims. Our findings show that when there is no explicit political context present, criminological evidence does affect policy making, even when there is a countervailing factor such as victim salience. This shows that the science in of itself need not be the obstacle to better alignment with policy. The study offers a new research agenda to further generalize these results and to work towards a better incorporation of criminology in criminal justice policy.
Keywords: criminal justice policy, criminological knowledge, decision-making, deterrence, policy makers, punishment
JEL Classification: K40, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation