Crime, Fear of Crime and Punitiveness

Leonidas Cheliotis, Sappho Xenakis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


With a response by Jonathan Jackson, Monica Gerber and Carolyn Côté-Lussier, pp. 45-64.

Over the last the three decades, punitiveness on the part of the state in Greece in the field of law and order has been on the ascent. The most obvious indicator of this has been the steeply rising use of imprisonment. A striking accompaniment of state punitiveness has been punitive public opinion. As soon as one broaches the question of why this is the case, however, one is confronted with at least two puzzling findings. First, the prevalence of crime has only risen modestly, in sharp disproportion to the high recorded levels of fear of criminal victimisation, of distrust in the police and judicial authorities, and of public punitiveness. And second, fear of criminal victimisation itself does not axiomatically bear a positive correlation with expressed public support for state punitiveness, though it does predict lack of confidence in criminal justice authorities. This chapter sets out to review these contradictions and the limits of available explanations. We begin by outlining the different ways in which Greece’s authoritarian past and the dictatorship of 1967-1974 in particular are thought to have influenced state and public punitiveness in the years that have followed. The next section summarises scholarly and commercial research on the levels and patterns of fear of crime and public punitiveness in contemporary Greece, as both distinct and interrelated themes. Attention is then drawn to the disconnect between crime and imprisonment rates as an illustrative example of the irrational foundations of state punitiveness and its degree of public support; a disconnect that is all the more prominent when examined with reference to the nationality of prisoners. Taking inspiration from political economies of punishment in jurisdictions elsewhere, the remainder of the chapter points to state deployment of a law-and-order discourse and the use of punishment as symbolic devices by which social insecurities, generated in large part by the state itself, are displaced and discharged onto suitably weak subsections of the population.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCrime and Punishment in Contemporary Greece
Subtitle of host publicationInternational Comparative Perspectives
EditorsLeonides Cheliotis, Sappho Xenakis
PublisherPeter Lang Publishing Group
Number of pages44
ISBN (Print)9783039115624
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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