Berryessa, C.M. and Lively, C. (2019). When a sex offender wins the lottery: Social and legal punitiveness toward sex offenders in an instance of perceived injustice. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 25(3): 181-195.
We present 3 experimental, between-subjects studies, utilizing a lottery win scenario, that attempt to illuminate how different forms of child sex offender stigma lead to support for forms of legal and social punishment in instances of perceived injustice when a “bad” person is randomly rewarded. The first study sought to examine how the child sex offender label would affect participants’ punitiveness toward an individual experiencing a random fortune, as compared with other criminal and noncriminal stigmata. The second study compared social and legal punitiveness regarding stigma of accusations versus substantiated claims of sex offending against children, particularly when comparing them with a child murderer. The third study attempts to disentangle punitiveness related to different acts of sexual deviance, as well as stigma related to different types of sexual offenses against children. Although not a direct test, results appear to be consistent with reactions to a violation of immanent justice reasoning. Data show mixed reactions related to social and legal punishment, and suggest that it may be the “mark” or stigma of criminality, rather than the sex offender stigma specifically, that leads to punitive sentiments in reaction to bad individuals experiencing a random fortune. However, focusing on the registration, notification, and regulation of an individual’s behavior and his winnings, support for certain types of legal punishment do appear to be directly associated with the child sex offender label, which is similar to sentiments that underlie community support for sex offender registries and community notification. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)