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Behavioral Prediction and the Problem of Incapacitation

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 32 Issue: 3 Dated: (August 1994) Pages: 441-474
Date Published
34 pages
The use of prediction studies as a basis for selecting which offenders to incapacitate for extended periods have been impeded by a lack of adequately reliable, comprehensive data on substantial samples of offenders followed for long periods; some of the needed tests are supplied in the study reported here.
The sample studied consisted of more than 6,000 men who were incarcerated in California prisons in the early 1960's. The group was chosen to reflect a random sample of all men in California prisons at that time. Their most frequent conviction offenses were burglary (18 percent) and armed robbery (12 percent). Five percent were sentenced for homicide or manslaughter, 9 percent for other violent offenses, and 16 percent for various narcotics offenses. General categories of data collected about these men in 1962-1963 included life history information, official institutional record information, inmate questionnaire responses, and psychological test data. Follow-up data collection for each of these men was initiated in 1988 (providing a 26-year follow-up period) with the help of the California Bureaus of Criminal Statistics and Criminal Identification, the State repository for arrest and applicant records. The sample of men for whom records were requested was divided randomly in half to provide a study sample and a potential validation sample. The study shows that little predictive advantage was realized by attention to more sophisticated behavioral outcome criteria. In agreement with other studies, the authors found little support for hypotheses concerning the pattern of criminal careers with respect to offense behaviors. The utility of incapacitation as a crime- control strategy seems to be constrained by the limits imposed by predictive validity and perhaps by the nature of the criminal career. 8 tables, 3 figures, and 82 references

Date Published: January 1, 1994