Concordance between Actual Level of Punishment and Punishments suggested by Lay People – but with less use of Imprisonment

How to Cite

Olaussen, L. P. (2014). Concordance between Actual Level of Punishment and Punishments suggested by Lay People – but with less use of Imprisonment. Bergen Journal of Criminal Law & Criminal Justice, 2(1), 69-99.


The article presents key findings from a recent Norwegian study of penal attitudes in the population compared to the actual penal level. The research design combined telephone survey to explore general opinions about actual penal level, with a questionnaire study to explore which punishments that Norwegian citizens would inflict in six specific cases. Actual level of punishment was decided by Norwegian professional judges. The questionnaire was both mailed to a nationwide representative sample and answered by representative focus groups participants. The groups also discussed punishments in specific cases. People agree that the courts inflict too lenient punishments, but that is because people underestimate the sentences inflicted by courts. In specific cases people would themselves inflict less imprisonment than courts would have done. Although there is widespread disagreement among people about sanctions for specific crimes, there is an astonishing concordance between medians of punishments that the population samples would inflict and the actual level of punishment. I argue that the main explanation for the concordance is that both laypeople and criminal courts mainly determine sanctions according to the principle of proportionality.

Copyright (c) 2014 Leif Petter Olaussen

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