Less crime, more punishment

Mark Cooney, Callie Harbin Burt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Recasting Durkheim's "community of saints" thesis, the authors argue that the severity of punishment is predicted in part by the prevalence of the deviant behavior of which the deviant stands accused. Although there is some curvilinearity at low levels of prevalence, the relationship is generally negative. Thus, all else equal, where a particular crime is frequent, any punishment applied to it is likely to be mild; conversely, where a crime is infrequent, its punishment ought to be severe. Using hierarchical regression models, the authors support this hypothesis with 1988 homicide conviction and imprisonment decisions in 32 U.S. counties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-527
Number of pages37
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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