The effects of attributions for crime on attitudes toward prison reform.
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Early attribution research suggests that when individuals view criminal behaviors as highly internal, controllable, and stable, they tend to support more severe and retributive forms of punishment. Although crime continues to be a top concern among American, such research has greatly slowed since the last major prison reforms of the 1980s. This study aims to reevaluate this topic by examining how lay people's attributions for crime relate to their perceptions of responsibility, emotions, and opinions on goals of punishment and support for prison reform. College student participants (n = 150) completed surveys presenting one of five criminal convictions scenarios. Correlational analyses and a path model provided strong support for links between internal and controllable attributions, high levels of anger and blame, retributive punishment purposes, and judgments against reform funding. Additionally, those with higher prison system knowledge and the politically liberal were more likely to agree that prison system change is necessary. The potential use of these data for prison reform activists is considered.
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