Over the past two decades the United States has experienced an exceptional 200% increase in incarceration rates and other forms of criminal punishment. At the same time crime rates were almost stable according to the National Crime Victimization Survey. There is increasing evidence that the trends in criminal punishment can only be explained if the production of knowledge and beliefs about the causes of crime and effects of punishment is considered. Such beliefs have also undergone radical shifts during this decade. They shifted, for example, from an image of offenders as socially and psychologically conditioned to an image of offenders as rational or innately bad, from reform and treatment strategies to deterrence, retribution and incapacitation, and from discretionary to mandatory judicial decision-making. The proposed study aims at the measurement and explanation of knowledge shifts in criminology and criminal justice studies between 1950 and 1992. This project tests the hypotheses that the development of scientific knowledge about crime and punishment is a function of: (1) the emergence of specialized institutions of criminology and criminal justice studies (i.e., university departments, journals, and professional associations); (2) extensive government involvement in these trends through research funding programs; and (3) simultaneous changes in policy positions on crime and punishment. The findings will improve our understanding of the relationship between the construction of knowledge and ideology in criminal justice policy. Data will be collected through content analysis of selected journals, and validated through surveys of journal editors and interviews with senior scholars. The source for the content analysis is a sample of 3,800 articles on crime and criminal punishment in scholarly journals. In-depth analysis will be applied to a smaller subset of articles using the cognitive mapping approach. The data sets so established will descriptively measure the actual trends in criminological knowledge between 1950 and 1992 (time series analysis using SPSS/PC+ Trends). The data set will further undergo multivariate causal analysis to test the hypothesized impacts of institutional arrangements on published knowledge, especially the impact of historic time, type of researcher, research institution, funding source (if any), and place of publication. This data set will later be combined with other data on knowledge shifts in media, the political sector, public opinion, and trends in criminal policy and punishment.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
Program Officer
Susan O. White
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
United States
Zip Code