Social research "Crime and punishment: Public perception, judgment and opinion"

The second phase of the social research "Crime and punishment: Public perception, judgment and opinion" was conducted by the SATIO Group of companies as a part of the campaign "Non-capital punishment: because we are human". The research was commissioned by Penal Reform Int. and conducted with the consultative support of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee. 

The research is based on personal domicile interviews of 1100 respondents (error margin does not exceed 2,8%) aged 18 to 75, male and female, residing in the capital, administrative centers of regions and districts, and villages, believers and nonbelievers, those who consider and does not consider themselves to be well provided.

Research period: August - September 2014.

The full text of the research is here (in ru). Now we would like to outline some trends.

1. Opponents of capital punishment outnumbered its supporters.
43,3% of respondents want to abolish capital punishment, observe the moratorium, go to the abolition of capital punishment; 41,9% of respondents want to keep capital punishment as it is or widen its scope. Last year results were 44,9% and 46% respectively.

2. Public awareness of capital punishment is low and keeps falling.
37,3% of respondents does not know that capital punishment is in force in the country.

3. Supporters of the movement to the abolition of capital punishment outnumbered supporters of death penalty.
This year 39,5% of respondents consider judicial errors to be rear; last year 30% of respondents thought so. 66,5% of respondents believe that an ordinary Belarusian citizen may hope for a fair trial (last year 61,8% thought so).

4. At the same time respondents' attitude towards courts and law enforcement agencies is, so to say, "based on life experience".
Thus 35,4% of respondents think that judges take bribes, 41,3% think that judges pass their judgments under the pressure of authorities.

5. High level of trust and inertness towards police officers.
Only 5,5% of Belarusians think that police officers never let people express their opinion about the accident. 22,4% of respondents tell that they encountered the police arbitrariness. Only 13,6% of respondents would refuse to fulfill a police officer's requirement, and only 24,5% (a quarter!) would make a complaint after fulfilling it if they face the abuse of police authority.

6. Belarusians are not concerned about the crime very much.
Almost one third of respondents think that the crime rate went down in last 5 years. Crime ranks only 13th (6,2%) in the list of main problems which disturb people. When talking over the crime rate in summer 2014, the respondents talked mostly about the situation in Ukraine (24,8%).

7. Belarusians consider themselves to be happy.
Even 85% (!) of respondents consider themselves to be happy. At the same time one in five respondents trusts themselves only.

8. Belarusians want to dissociate from the problems or pay them off.
45,7% don't want to start a family with a former prisoner (last year their number was 35,5%). 66,5% of Belarusians are ready to help the needy with money or things, but 46,4% are not ready to spend their time on such help (last year there were 37,7% of such people).

9. Belarusians dissociate from capital punishment the same way
Only 9,3% of respondents think that people make a decision to preserve capital punishment. And only 5,6% of the respondents think that people are responsible for executions.

10. And finally, Belarusians expect the state to be humane.
72,2% of Belarusians do not agree with the usage of army to break up a peaceful illegal action. 83,1% are against of using the arms by the police when breaking up a meeting. 46,5% of people are against of using the arms when releasing hostages, if hostages can suffer. The number of people who think that guilty person should be treated with highest possible humanity, increased from 42,7% to 57,3%. On the opposite side the number of people who agree with the statement "the harder is the crime - the harder is the punishment", decreased from 67,2% to 54,2%.

Educational campaign “Non-capital punishment: because we are human” started in the Republic of Belarus in 2013 and is carried out with the support of Council of Europe Office. It includes researches of public opinion, educational events for different professional groups (law students, teachers, state bodies representatives, journalists, clergymen).

We are against of capital punishment. But it does not mean we are ready to let him escape the punishment.
Each crime should be punished.
But not at the cost of our inner purity, our integrity.
We renounce capital punishment in favour of life sentence not because we are indifferent to crime. The responsibility is unavoidable. Punishment stays punishment even it is not capital.
But we do not punish ourselves.
We do not punish ourselves with the most terrible, intolerable, fatal evil – murder.
Because we are humans.