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May 8th - Lecture #2.doc

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Nicole Myers

SOC219 May 8 th Lecture #2 Issues for Criminal Justice Policy News Media Coverage - comparison of court based information vs. newspaper information o newspaper information: 63% judged sentences as too lenient o court documents: 19% thought sentences too lenient  when you provide people information and contexts – (ex. costs) – people stop thinking as sentences being too lenient - give people information about costs - remind people of the fact that the offender will released – almost every single person in custody is going to be let out – if you remind people of, it starts to shift how they evaluate the severity of a sentence - but what makes a news story? – unusual – if you cant make the case unusual, maybe you can make the sentence unusual – make it look wrong, ex. too lenient o ideas also seen amongst politicians – suggest sentences are too lenient – people are getting away with things Public Attitudes and Broader Policies - knowledge of ability of the sanction to accomplish the goal – ex. general deterrence - when asked about best way to prevent crime – Canadians support ‘social’ approaches – over harsher sentences - desire for an appropriate response to offending o people want something done now – but if you want to see the outcome of a social sanction, you need to wait 20 years  ex. better access to social welfare, minimum wage, food programs, treating people with addictions, mental health disorders – community support – improving access to healthcare  people don’t believe that community based sanctions are held out • not followed through with – makes the idea of sending someone to jail more attractive – assurance of sentence being carried out - need to think more about the ordinary case – rather than focusing on the exceptional cases o rather than changing laws based on what happened in a single circumstance Research Example – Case Study - cases presented to ordinary people to ‘sentence’ in which actual sentence appeared to be lenient - workers in 32 workplaces (Australia) o 70 minute talk about sentencing – legal principles, etc. o judge presented sentencing judgement without information on sentence, or possible range - results: o huge variation across cases o when people are given more knowledge/context – they are likely to think that a sentence is about right – can understand its reason o with high knowledge – more likely to think that the CJS treats people fairly and cares about the rights of the accused o CJS is good at imposing a level of justice General Conclusions: Public Opinions - simple questions lead to simple answers o problem if we ask simple questions and use the simple answers to make policies - watch out for the difference between knowledge and opinion - caution on what ‘opinion’ means - relationship between policy and public opinion - how should we design ‘criminal justice policy’? o large number of relatively specialized bills – little ‘overall’ theory  do not operate independently – interact with each other o how do we asses public views of the CJS Summary - criminal justice system o complex organization o parts interact (not independent) – press release - focus of the course: empirical evidence o need to evaluate evidence – not simple accept assertions o need to be careful about what can be generalized - courts o administration – provinces o courts and judges o appears – at provincial/territorial level – and Supreme Court of Canada - how should we design criminal justice policy o large number of relatively specialized bills – little overall theory o how do we assess public views of the criminal justice system Complexities that need to be considered – Criminal Justice and Governments - federal government (law) and provincial/territorial governments – administration of justice - ordinary policing o OPP in Ontario o but RCMP’s various roles – federal police and ‘contract’ – ex. airport o federal role – ex. police information systems - courts o administration – provinces o courts and judges o appeals – at provincial/territorial level - corrections o community corrections  ideas around probation, fines, mediation, etc. (vs. institution) o prisons  also those who are locked in custody while being legally innocent  provincial institutions
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