Source: (2006) European Journal of Criminology. 3(2): 221–253.

Icelandic criminologists have classified Iceland as a country in which offences are rare. Despite an increase in crime during the 1990s, the incarceration figures are among the lowest in Europe. An overview of Icelandic research on crime and criminal justice over the past five years shows diversity in the topics chosen but also indicates that in certain areas there is no research to be found. The chief topics addressed in recent Icelandic work include the formation of boundaries between deviance and conformity, fear of crime, problems in the city centre, recidivism, the social status of inmates, youth crime and long-term trends in punishment for violent offences. This article traces how public discussion of criminal policy in recent years has centred on making punishments more severe. It will be shown that the demand for more severe punishment for drug offences is driven by utilitarian motives, whereas the arguments for punishment for sexual offences are based on the principle of retribution. At the end of the 20th century, attitudes toward crime and punishment were characterized by a consensus that is seen clearly in attitudes toward drug offences, whereas political divisions have recently emerged in discussion of sexual offences.