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Asymmetric Value Collapse, Collateral Consequences, and Reintegration: An Experimental Study

Fri, Nov 18, 3:30 to 4:50pm, A706, Atrium Level


Public opinion is doubly important for reintegration, as it shapes the policy and stigma environments that people with criminal records must face. Nowhere are the policy and stigma environments bleaker than they are for record holders convicted of sex crimes. Drawing on value collapse theory and using experimental data from a national survey (N = 905), we examine the effects of informing members of the public about the hardships faced by record holders convicted of sex crimes, and we compare those effects (or the lack thereof) to the effects of victim discourse. We also randomize the information format: aggregate/statistical versus personal narratives. We find that narratives about crime victims’ suffering matter to the public—increasing aversive emotions, support for collateral consequences, and stigmatization—but narratives about record holders’ suffering do not. The findings also show that public support for collateral consequences varies depending on the characteristics of the case (e.g., offense type) and record holder (e.g., married), and declines as the record holder’s time since release increases. We conclude by discussing alternative communication strategies that public criminologists may use to garner public support for progressive criminal justice reforms.