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Social Correlates of Punitiveness Toward Criminals: A Comparison of the Czech Republic and Florida

NCJ Number
The Justice System Journal Volume: 23 Issue: 2 Dated: 2002 Pages: 191-220
Michael T. Costelloe; Ted Chiricos; Jiri Burianek; Marc Gertz; Daniel Maier-Katkin
Susette Talarico
Date Published
30 pages
This article examines citizens’ attitudes about the punishment of criminals in the Czech Republic and in the State of Florida and the social correlates of support for harsh punishment for criminals.
The Czech Republic and Florida share a commonality in their punitive attitudes toward crime and criminals. In an attempt to identify the factors in both the State of Florida and the Czech Republic that might explain the variation in punitive attitudes toward criminal offenders, a survey was administered to citizens in the Czech Republic and in Florida asking them to indicate their support for a variety of punitive measures that target both adult and juvenile offenders. Punitive attitudes were seen as being influenced by economic insecurity, fears about crime, and relative antipathy toward culturally specific “others.” The data for Florida came from a statewide survey of 2,250 randomly selected Florida residents interviewed between October and December of 1997. Data for the Czech Republic came from a 1998 public opinion survey of individuals age 15 and over residing in the Czech Republic. The data were analyzed using OLS regression. Despite the exposure to different cultural and political traditions important commonalities were identified as having relevance for punitive attitudes toward criminals that included: (1) the common experience of market-driven economies and certain insecurities in economic changes; (2) historical tensions between racial and ethnic groups; and (3) the presence of high levels of drug trafficking and organized crime. Both Florida and the Czech Republic have a consistent relationship between fear of crime and punitive attitudes. This indicates that fear of crime is an important predictor of punitiveness and punitiveness tends to be driven by crime-specific concerns in both countries. It was noted that conservatism was a significant predictor in all of the Florida models, while antipathy toward others was the strongest predictor of punitiveness among Czech Republic respondents. This study identified important and significant predictors of punitive attitudes in both the Czech Republic and the State of Florida. Tables, appendices, and references