Substantive Policies and Symbolic Policies

Substantive Policies and Symbolic Policies




Substantive Policies and Symbolic Policies

This refers to policymaking that relates to issues, which are sensitive to the public and have given rise to controversies given the impact on the society. This may include issues such as plea bargaining, drug policies, gun control, and death penalty. These substantive policies usually have far-reaching implications on the entire population, which is illustrative of the level of controversy accruable from enactment of these laws or policies. Symbolic policies usually relate to regulations and policies that are reflective and define the inherent social values of a given com unity as well as uphold the various governmental principles (Hobbs, & Hamerton, 2014). These policies usually lack tangible effects on the community and involve minimal financial expenses.

Substantive policies are generally provided with an opportunity for existence by symbolic policies that usually reflect the perceptions of the public or society. research notes that the convergence of political power and social constructions usually results in development of four primary target populations who accrue varied burdens and benefits from enactment of either symbolic or substantive policies. The first group is the advantaged who are political powerful and positively constructed given them numerous benefits from enactment of either two policies. The second group is the contenders who are negative constructed but are politically powerful (Hobbs, & Hamerton, 2014). The third group is made up of dependents that are positively constructed but lack political power. The fourth group is made up of deviants who are negatively constructed in relation to the criminal policies and lack any form of political power.

Thus in the criminal public policymaking the four groups may participate, albeit at different levels due to varied contributions. In understanding the position of ach of the four target groups in policymaking, it is apparent of the differing benefits accruable to each group, which informs the intentions and objectives of developing either symbolic or substantive polices in criminal justice. In essence, policymaking is brought about by the presence of a set of conditions, which may be viewed as a problem. For instance issues such as high incidences of suicide attributable to drug and substance abuse may necessitate the need for new symbolic and subsequent substantive policies to tame drug abuse in a community (Hobbs, & Hamerton, 2014).

In addition, issues such as gun control, drug use, and abortion have all attracted significant public outcry and opposing viewpoints from the American public (Hobbs, & Hamerton, 2014). The utilization of symbolic policies is aimed at educating and informing the public may give rise to necessary and substantive policies and regulations aimed at control or mitigating social effects from the identified issues. This is initiated by the evaluation of such activities on the welfare of the public and society as a whole.

Symbolic policies may be adopted by a local or federal government with the aim of reducing the effects attributable to specific activities such as alcohol abuse amongst the youth. This may be informed by the need to ensure a productive youth population and minimization of incidences of criminal activities that are directly related to substance and alcohol abuse. In relation to the criminal justice system, symbolic policies may focus on issues such as reintegration of offenders into the community (Hobbs, & Hamerton, 2014). This is usually driven by the need to ensure minimal incidences of relapse into criminal activities amongst offenders and in the process resulting in accrual of optimal social benefits such as reduced crime rates and alleviation of burden of incarceration of the justice system. Additionally, this can result in substantive policies and regulations aimed at ensuring minimal proliferation of drugs into the communities through strict policies. Consequently, it is apparent that these two policies compliment one another as they bring about the presence of changes aimed at ensuring an effective and efficient criminal justice system with capability of delivering swift justice to the public.



Hobbs, S., & Hamerton, C. (2014). The making of criminal justice policy. Abingdon, Oxon : Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

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