emotionalism” and partisan and interest group politics (Gottschalk, 2006; Tonry, 2011a; Garland, 2010). As Murakawa (forthcoming, Chapter 5) shows, the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have been far more likely to enact stiffer mandatory minimum sentence legislation in the weeks prior to an election. Because of the nation’s system of frequent legislative elections, dispersed governmental powers, and election of judges and prosecutors, policy makers tend to be susceptible to public alarms about crime and drugs and vulnerable to pressures from the public and political opponents to quickly enact tough legislation. Such actions serve an expressive purpose over the short run but may have negative long-term consequences (Tonry, 2007b, p. 40).23 Incentives for supporting certain kinds of crime-related initiatives also tend to be misaligned across different levels of government. For example, it is relatively easy for local government officials to advocate increased sentence lengths and higher incarceration rates that state government officials are typically responsible for funding (including the building and running of state penitentiaries). Yet, despite taking hard-line positions on crime control, local governments often hire too few police officers (since cities and counties are responsible for paying nearly all local police budgets) (Stuntz, 2011, p. 289; Lacey, 2010, p. 111).
Lappi-Seppälä (2008) finds that democracies that are “consensual” (i.e., having a larger number of major political parties, proportional representation, and coalition governments) have lower rates of incarceration and have experienced smaller increases in incarceration since 1980 than winner-take-all, two-party democracies, such as the United States. Lacey (2008) and others (Cavadino and Dignan, 2006; de Giorgi, 2006) find that countries (such as Germany) with consensual electoral systems and coordinated market economies tend to be less punitive and more conducive to inclusionary and welfarist policies than the United States and Britain, whose electoral systems are less consensual and whose market economies are relatively less regulated.
In the United States, most prosecutors are elected, as are most judges (except those who are nominated through a political process). Therefore, they are typically mindful of the political environment in which they function. Judges in competitive electoral environments in the United States tend to mete out harsher sentences (Gordon and Huber, 2007; Huber and Gordon, 2004). In contrast, prosecutors and judges in many European countries are career civil servants who have evolved a distinctive
23It is also important to note, however, that in England and Wales, the concentration of political power rather than its dispersal has made it possible to adopt and implement a wide range of punitive policies. And although Switzerland shares many of the dispersed and populist features of the U.S. system, its penal policies generally have been stable over the past several decades (Tonry, 2007b).