Measuring the effects of small group deliberation on public attitudes towards sentencing: Benefits and challenges
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This article reports on the outcomes of small group deliberations on levels of punitiveness and public confidence in the sentencing functions of Australian criminal courts, conducted as part of a larger project investigating public attitudes to sentencing. One hypothesis of the project as a whole was that a more informed and involved public is likely to be less punitive in their views on the sentencing of offenders, and to express less cynical views about the role of sentencing courts. The aim of the small group deliberations as part of the broader project was to engender a more thoughtful and considered approach by participants to issues around sentencing. It was hypothesised that the opportunity to discuss, deliberate and consider would lead to a measurable reduction in punitiveness and an increase in people’s confidence in the courts. While the results do indeed indicate such changes in attitudes, the current study also shed light on some of the conceptual, methodological and practical challenges inherent in this type of research.
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