Alternatives to imprisonment

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Alternatives to imprisonment

Mair & May - Probation

Aim: To investigate the experiences of offenders on probation orders in a cross section of offices in England and Wales.

Methodology: Survey using a questionnaire (Initially piloted with 7 officers & 24 offenders).

Sample:

* 3299 offenders randomly selected from 22 probation offices across England & Wales (to be representative of all crimes & age groups).

Procedure:

* Interviews were conducted by independently employed researchers.

* Questions covered a vast range of topics about the offenders life as well as their likelyhood to offend - many questions had Likert scale responses, otherwise they were all closed, multiple-choice type.

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Alternatives to imprisonment

Mair & May - Probation

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Results:

  • 88% of sample felt probation was extremely useful
  • 60% felt that the probation officer would help them to sort out their problems & was there to talk to.
  • 37% felt this would stop them re-offending altogether
  • Disappointingly, not one offender thought their order was intended to stop them from re-offending.

However, 40% of original sample failed to take part for various reasons...perhaps because they didn't  think probation was useful etc..

Evaluative points:

  • Reliable - large sample size so can look for consistancies in results. 
  • High ecological validity & mundane realism - probation designed for offenders etc
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Alternatives to imprisonment

Sherman & Strang - Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice: A system of criminal justice which focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with the victims & community at large.

Aim: To review restorative justice & its effectiveness in preventing reoffending 

--> by looking at good practice in RJ & reaching a conclusion on its effectiveness with reference to re-offending

Sample:

  • An internet search - including the words 'restorative justice' with 're-offending', 'recidivism' or 'mediation'.
  • This was applied to many databases of abstracts & academic periodicals worldwide - this yielded 424 hits.

Procedure:

Two researchers analysed the content of the search - where a sample of offenders on an RJ programme was compared with a similar sample who did not experience RJ

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Alternatives to imprisonment

Sherman & Strang - Restorative Justice

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The content analysis of the search yielded 36 studies which form the basis for the analysis

Results:

  • Reductions of re-offending were found for violence & property crime (but not in all cases).
  • RJ is more effective for cases with a personal victim or when violence has been part of the crime.
  • From a victims point of view, it can help them to reduce post traumatic shock symptoms & help them come to terms with what happened to them.

--> Concludes strong evidence that RJ is effective in some cases & support for its increased use (perhaps beginning with young offenders)

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Alternatives to imprisonment

Eberhardt - 'Looking Deathworthy'

Aim: To investigate whether there was support for the hypothesis that black offenders with stereotypically black features were more likely to get the death penalty than white offenders.

Methodology: A lab experiment

Procedure:

  • Analysis of the database of death-eligible cases in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that had advanced to penalty phase between 1979 & 1999
  • In 44 cases, a black man had murdered a white victim --> Their photographs were shown to naive raters who were asked to use their facial features to give them a rating of stereotypically form 1-11
  • Raters were from Stanford Uni - 32 white, 15 Asian, 4 other ethnicities = 51 raters
  • Photographs were in black and white and were shown for 4 seconds

An analysis of covarience was carried out - where multiple variables were analysed at once to look for relationships between them

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Alternatives to imprisonment

Eberhardt - 'Looking Deathworthy'

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Results:

  • Stereotypically black defendants were 57.5% more likely to receive the death sentence, than 'less stereotypically black' defendants at 24.4%.
  • In a second study, where there was a black defendant & a black victim, the same analysis showed no significant effect - suggesting that a black victim is in some way seen as less important.

Evaluative points:

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