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Research and Public Attitudes vis-a-vis the Criminal Phenomenon - Evolution and Postulates

NCJ Number
CRIME ET/AND JUSTICE Volume: 7-8 Issue: 2 Dated: (1979-80) Pages: 95-99
Y Brillon
Date Published
5 pages
The increase in research on public attitudes about crime since 1965 appears to parallel increases in crime rates, the democratization of violence, and the extent of influence exerted by negative public perceptions of the criminal justice system.
The 1960's and 1970's have seen a dramatic increase in public attitude surveys and a commensurate increase in the perceived amounts of criminality. In many cases the anxiety and fear of crime and of victimization have outstripped the official statistics, portrayal of actual criminal events. At the same time, acts of violence and crime have spread from the lower classes into all levels of society through the use of drugs, political struggles for racial equality, and student agitation. The growth of criminality and society's perception of it may be viewed as social indicators for gauging the dimensions of ideological confrontation. Researchers and criminologists have started to pay more attention to the public voice, almost to the extent of replacing official statistics (which appear to be more and more faulty because of their inability to pick up unreported crime statistics) with public attitude and opinion surveys. Since for so long the criminal justice system picked on poor and disadvantaged classes, the researcher felt it was time to question the validity of crime detection devices and of arrest and apprehension practices. Instead, interdependence among criminality, criminal justice policies, and the public's attitude towards both criminality and criminal justice agencies has emerged as the focus of recent studies. Three postulates reflect this threefold relationship: criminality has repercussions on both the formulation of criminal policy and on public attitudes; public attitudes toward criminal policy are related to its reactions to criminality; and criminal policy influences both criminality and public attitudes. Attitudes toward crime, the criminal, and criminality form prisms for viewing and evaluating the penal system, the roles and duties of agencies, and the social function of justice. Any research on crime must take into account all three aspects of criminal phenomena. A bibliography presents 26 citations and a figure illustrates the interdependence of the three factors. --in French.


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