Denying responsibility: sentencers’ accounts of their decisions to imprison

Jacqueline Tombs, Elizabeth Jagger

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    he reasons for dramatic rises in prison populations are the focus of much debate. This paper examines just one of these: the sentencing practices of the judiciary who play a pivotal role both in determining the use of imprisonment itself and in the severity of prison sentences. Drawing on research with Scottish sentencers, it explores how they made decisions to imprison, how they viewed prison, how they justified sending people there and how ‘borderline’ offenders were dealt with. We found that although sentencers viewed imprisonment as a severe punishment, they normalized their routine incarceration of individuals by, in effect, denying final responsibility for their actions. Sentencers’ accounts of borderline decisions, in which individuals committing the same offence could be accorded either a custodial or a community disposal, illustrated these denials most starkly and revealed an overarching retributivism in their custodial decisions. This retributivism was without proportionality in so far as it was directed at the offender rather than proportionate to the offence. In conclusion, we argue for future sentencing policies and legislation to take heed of sentencers’ logic in use.

    Original languageEnglish
    JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2006

    Keywords

    • sentencing practices
    • prison populations
    • criminology

    Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Denying responsibility: sentencers’ accounts of their decisions to imprison'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this