Punishment and social structure at the state level

A cross-sectional comparison of 1970 and 1980

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

44 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In recent years, much of the sociological analysis concerning the relationship between punishment and social structure has centered around theories of fiscal constraint and penal discipline. The fiscal constraint model suggests that levels of imprisonment will be sensitive to levels of available public revenue. The penal discipline model posits a relationship between unemployment and imprisonment that exists independent of rates of crime. These two propositions, with controls for region, crime, race and urbanization, are tested using a cross-sectional analysis of the 50 states for 1970 and 1980. Contrary to the two theories, the findings indicate that neither public revenue nor level of unemployment were significantly related to interstate variation in rates of imprisonment. The distinction between southern and non-southern states appeared as the most significant predictor of imprisonment. Analyses of non-southern states indicated that only the rate of violent crime and the proportion of black males in the population were significantly correlated with variations in rates of imprisonment, though the relationship between revenue and imprisonment strengthened somewhat between 1970 and 1980.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-78
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Volume27
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes

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Punishment
Crime
Unemployment
Urbanization
Cross-Sectional Studies
Population

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Cite this

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title = "Punishment and social structure at the state level: A cross-sectional comparison of 1970 and 1980",
abstract = "In recent years, much of the sociological analysis concerning the relationship between punishment and social structure has centered around theories of fiscal constraint and penal discipline. The fiscal constraint model suggests that levels of imprisonment will be sensitive to levels of available public revenue. The penal discipline model posits a relationship between unemployment and imprisonment that exists independent of rates of crime. These two propositions, with controls for region, crime, race and urbanization, are tested using a cross-sectional analysis of the 50 states for 1970 and 1980. Contrary to the two theories, the findings indicate that neither public revenue nor level of unemployment were significantly related to interstate variation in rates of imprisonment. The distinction between southern and non-southern states appeared as the most significant predictor of imprisonment. Analyses of non-southern states indicated that only the rate of violent crime and the proportion of black males in the population were significantly correlated with variations in rates of imprisonment, though the relationship between revenue and imprisonment strengthened somewhat between 1970 and 1980.",
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