Crime, shame, and recidivism: The Case of Iceland

Eric P. Baumer*, Richard Wright, Kristrun Kristinsdottir, Helgi Gunnlaugsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


In Crime, Shame, and Reintegration, John Braithwaite argues that communitarian societies are better able than others to reintegrate lawbreakers by shaming the offence without permanently stigmatizing the offender. Although Braithwaite focuses on crime rates, a logical corollary of his argument is that such societies should also exhibit markedly low rates of offender recidivism. In this paper, we examine offender recidivism in Iceland, a country that exhibits many of the social organizational hallmarks of communitarianism and relies heavily on shaming as a method of social control. Following Braithwaite then, Iceland should have a lower rate of recidivism than less socially integrated societies. Contrary to this expectation, results indicate that Icelandic recidivism rates closely approximate those of other nations, many of which are far less communitarian. We conclude by considering the role of recidivism in promoting social cohesion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-59
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
* Eric P. Baumer, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Missouri-St. Louis; Richard Wright, University of Missouri-St. Louis; Kristrun Kristinsdottir, Iceland Ministry of Justice; Helgi Gunnlaugsson, University of Iceland. This research was supported by grants from the University of Missouri Research Board and the Icelandic Research Council. We thank the Icelandic Ministry of Justice for helping to make our research possible and the Icelandic Prison and Probation Administration for compiling the data needed for our research.


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