Eric D. Widmer

Hammer, R., Nills-Robert, C., Widmer, E.D. (2009). Subjective proximity to crime or social representations? Explaining sentencing attitudes in Switzerland. Social Justice Research, vol. 22, n° 4, pp. 351-368.

Literature offers two main competing theoretical perspectives to understanding how lay people’s sentencing attitudes are shaped. The first one relates individuals' attitudes, their judgments and opinions with their social position. In particular, sentencing attitudes are viewed as part of a broader set of social values or general attitudes. The second one explains individuals’ sentencing attitudes by subjective experiences with crime. The purpose of this paper is to test both types of explanations by performing a series of ordinal regressions on two dimensions of sentencing: punishment goals and severity of punishment. Empirical data comes from a quantitative survey conducted in Switzerland. Findings reveal that the first theoretical perspective accounts overall for the respondents’ attitudes with respect to sentencing. Yet, in some specific cases, constructs measuring subjective proximity to crime play an important role.

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