Punishment justifications in rape cases: a community study
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Norway is one of the countries with the most progressive criminal justice systems in the Western world. Traditionally, the Norwegian criminal justice system has been mainly based on treatment and deterrence perspectives. While it is believed that criminal justice practices should be in accordance with public attitudes, few studies in Scandinavia have investigated public attitudes towards criminal justice sanctions in a methodologically sound manner. The current study is the first to investigate the attitudes of the Norwegian public towards punishment of rapists. In a Norwegian community sample (N = 475) from 2005, participants found the typical sentencing severity of a convicted rapist too lenient. The participants did report that as a global sentencing orientation, they preferred incapacitation. When presented with a specific rape case, their sentencing judgements were oriented towards both incapacitation and retribution, but their global orientation were not related to their specific judgements. Aggravating circumstances (e.g. violence was used) were found to influence the participants’ judgements more than when no aggravating circumstances were present (e.g. no violence was used). Few gender or educational differences were found, which indicates that these attitudes towards punishment of rapists are quite consistent across demographical groups.