2023 91 SBE

Considerations for Alternative Responses to Harm

By: Zoe Fejes, Haze Brown, Carlos Cuevas-Vallejo, Alfonso Hinojosa-Chavarria, Shanai Leon, Laura Gutierrez, Molly Hamilton, Isabelle Madayag, Willy Ngo, Brianna Lopez

Department: Psychology

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Amy Smith

Trends in punishment have shifted in the United States over time, with a movement in the 1990s that focused almost entirely on incarceration and harsh prison sentences (Mitchell, 2017). Today, although many alternative, non-prison responses to crime exist (such as restorative justice and other, more rehabilitative options), incarceration is the most expected and imposed punishment in our criminal legal system. Prior research shows that the type of offense impacts attitudes toward punishment choices (Hawkins, 1980). Demographic variables also influence sentencing: gender, age, social dominance orientation, and higher levels of racial prejudice and discrimination have all been shown to influence sentencing decisions (e.g., Palasinski and Shortland, 2016; Steffensmier et al, 2006). Finally, simply being informed about alternative options increases preferences for non-punitive responses (e.g, Gavrielides, 2015; Zebel et al, 2017, showing that survivors favor restorative justice responses when given the option). In this study, we examine which conditions influence punishment recommendations, and focus on whether awareness of alternatives might influence sentencing choice. Participants are first asked to choose the most appropriate response for each of four (4) specific crimes (burglary, robbery, drug possession, and sale of drugs) using a rank-choice system. Sentencing options include education (anger management), restitution, community service, therapy, incarceration, and restorative justice. Then, participants complete several surveys about their own attitudes and beliefs (e.g., belief in just world, attitudes towards justice, social dominance, and racism scales), and provide demographic information. We predict that in addition to crime type, attitudes toward punishment, race, social dominance, and gender will influence punishment choices. Data are currently being collected.