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10. Crime, Imprisonment, and Social Control

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines cross-national variation in the use of formal social control, and in particular imprisonment. Incarceration rates vary considerably across countries and over time, but the trend in the USA over the last three decades is notable for many reasons. The chapter begins by summarizing theories of the origins and differences in the use of state sanctions. It describes the variables commonly used in cross-national research and reviews findings from key studies. The chapter focuses on investigation that adopt a comparative approach and uses data from several nations. Societies differ in the range of behaviors they criminalize; however, most societies have comparable prohibitions for homicide and the homicide rate is the most commonly used indicator of crime in cross-national research. There is considerable evidence that imprisonment, the death penalty and other mechanisms of formal control vary considerably across nations.

Keywords: crime; cross-national variation; death penalty; imprisonment; incarceration; social control; state sanctions



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