The discussion about crime and security in society and in particular about the role of punishment in reducing crime depends on different variables. Of prime importance in this context is, for instance, the “penal mentality” in a society, which is influenced by such factors as media reporting, the level of education, a functional welfare system for people in need or the confidence of citizens in their government and justice system. International changes of living conditions can impact on the feelings of security and the level of fear of crime, for instance if these changes lead to high immigration- or refugee rates. This can cause a higher punitiveness especially if people are not informed and included in decision processes.
This volume brings together articles from very different countries about their handling of the “crime problem”. Iran for example is a country about which we have little information, with a different criminal justice system and a religious background that is different from most European states. The death penalty, for instance, is still in frequent use and the victim’s family has a central role in the prosecution and imposition of punishment. Indian criminologists discuss the lower crime and recidivism rates in this country compared to the United States and Japan. Criminologists from Hungary, a former Soviet state, present data about people’s feelings and attitudes towards crime and punishment and how these have been transformed over time by political change. A chapter about alternatives to harsh punishment concentrates on mediation and Restorative Justice and evaluates their effectiveness compared to traditional criminal sanctions. Criminologists and criminal lawyers from different countries present data about the greater leniency of criminal courts in comparison to the public, the attitudes to the death penalty among students and the effects of youth custody on the crime rate.