Author Craig Jones and Don Weatherburn
Published December 2011
Report Type Affiliated publication
Subject Diversion; Sentencing
Keywords Contingent valuation, willingness to pay, crime reduction, public punitiveness

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Punitive penal policies are often justified on the assumption that members of the public demand punitive responses to crime. The current study employed a contingent valuation survey design to assess the extent to which this is true in the state of New South Wales, Australia. The survey investigated public willingness to pursue crime control policies that rehabilitate offenders versus those that punish. Using a quota‐based telephone survey, 1885 taxpaying residents in the state of New South Wales, Australia, were asked how much additional tax they would be willing to pay to produce a 10 per cent reduction in serious crime. A 2times2 randomised factorial design was employed, with one factor being the means offered to reduce crime (rehabilitation versus imprisonment) and the other factor being the population under study (adults versus juveniles). There were no significant differences in willingness to pay for crime reduction across any of the four resulting groups. The findings suggest that the NSW public are equally disposed to reducing crime by rehabilitating offenders as they are to imprisoning them for longer. There would therefore seem every reason to pursue rehabilitation with greater vigour, especially in light of the relative cost‐effectiveness of rehabilitation programs over incarceration.