Public opinion about crime and justice remains dominated by a focus on punishment and retribution. There is a strong belief that people act as ‘rational actors’ who engage in a kind of cost–benefit analysis when deciding whether to commit a crime. This leads to narrow-minded views about how to reduce crime and improve the criminal justice system. Increasing the severity of punishment is seen as the most effective way to deter people from committing crime, despite evidence that this can be counterproductive in improving public safety.
So how can criminal justice reformers effectively argue for different solutions to reducing crime in the face of such strong support for punishment?
This report answers this question using multi-method research into the public’s deep, cultural understandings of crime and justice issues in England and Wales.
It demonstrates that, in order to effectively engage the public and ignite a more productive conversation about criminal justice reform, communicators must dislodge the role that punishment plays in public thinking about criminal justice. That means interrupt the dominant belief that severe punishment effectively reduces crime and increases public safety and replace it with new and better ways of thinking. The report sets out an evidence-based communications strategy for how to deepen public understanding of, and build support for, criminal justice reform.
This is the second of two research reports produced by the Frameworks Institute on behalf of Transform Justice, the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, Clinks and the Criminal Justice Alliance, and was supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Porticus UK.
A handy guide summarising this research is also available here.