Offenders' Perceptions of Sentencing

David Indermaur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Our system of justice depends on a number of psychological transactions to function properly. At the centre of the system is the sentencing process which attempts, among other things, to communicate to offenders that they have done wrong. This paper explores the effectiveness of sentencing in achieving this primary function. The literature points to a number of assumptions about the psychology of offenders upon which sentencing depends. Unfortunately, it appears that most of these assumptions are false. It is argued that the lack of psychological insight in the sentencing process, rather than being an oversight, is important because it allows the system to continue functioning in its present form. Offenders' views on sentencing are compared with those of judges and the general public. The results highlight the different values placed by the different groups on certain purposes of sentencing. It is concluded that the while rehabilitation is favoured by offenders and judges, it has fallen out of favour with the general public. Although judges favour rehabilitation, it is noted that the correctional system is principally concerned with supervision, control, and custody, not rehabilitation. About half of the offenders interviewed said they did not feel guilty about any of the offences they had committed. The results are interpreted as suggesting the need for a closer look at the links between offender psychology, sentencing, and corrections. It is concluded that many offenders continue to see themselves as victims and feel hostile towards the criminal justice system for ''persecuting'' them. Until a meaningful intervention system or dialogue can be established, sentencing is likely to remain ineffective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-144
JournalAustralian Psychologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1994


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