RESPONSES OF THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM TO LEGISLATION PROVIDING MORE SEVERE THREATENED SANCTIONS

Authors


  • AUTHORS' NOTE: This investigation was supported by NIH grant number MH21884 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

  • Neal Shover (Ph.D., 1971, Universip of Illinois-Urbana) is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. With a colleague he is presently engaged in research on the relationship between gender roles and involvement in delinquency. He is also working on A Sociology of the Correctional Industry, to be published by Dorsey Press.

  • William B. Bankston (Ph.D., 1976, University of Tennessee-Knoxville) is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of New Orleans. His major interests are devinnce, the sociology of law, and sociological theory, and he has co-authored several articles and papers in these areas.

  • J. William Curley (MA., 1974, University of Tennessee-Knoxville) is a regional planner with the East Tennessee Development District, which serves local governments in the sixteen counties surrounding Knoxville. He is especially interested in socinl-psychological processes in the etiology of deviance.

Abstract

In 1971, the Tennessee legislature enacted legislation providing for mandatory jail sentences and driver's license revocations for anyone convicted of driving while intoxicated. This new law had no demonstrable impact on the highway traffic fatalities rate-the intended objective. This paper explores the reasons for this apparent lack of impact. Data suggest that, while there was some increase in the severity of sanctions imposed on drunken drivers, there was still a consistent tendency to suspend the jail sentences and grant drivers restricted driving privileges. Nor is there any reason to believe that the police intensified their efforts to apprehend larger numbers of drunken drivers. Thus, the more severe sanctions threatened in the new law were generally mitigated in practice. Some possible interpretations for this are offered.

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