Poster Paper: Punitiveness and Mass Incarceration: Revisiting Enns' Analysis on the Link Between Public Opinion and Incarceration

Monday, June 13, 2016
Clement House, Ground Floor, Hong Kong Theatre (London School of Economics)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Justin B. Jones and Demar F. Lewis IV, University of Michigan
The U.S. criminal justice system has frequently been acknowledged as the most punitive

in the world. In “The Public’s Increasing Punitiveness and Its Influence on Mass

Incarceration in the United States”, Peter Enns attempts to empirically unveil plausible

relationships that led the to the adoption of punitive criminal justice policies. Focusing

on national survey responses as a proxy for public opinion, Enns finds a significant

relationship between increasing punitive public opinions and the adoption of more

punitive criminal justice policies at the federal level. Building on Enns’ findings, we

extend Enns’ analysis by 1) focusing on changes in incarceration rates at the state and

regional levels, 2) testing for significant correlations between police presence and

changes in incarceration, and 3) adapting a new metric of punitiveness based on Enns’

Confirmatory Factor Analysis. Our results provide support for Enns’ original findings,

and we discover that there is a significant relationship between police presence and

changes in the incarceration rate at the state and regional levels using panel data from