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Criminal Careers and 'Career Criminals'

NCJ Number
Interface Volume: 12 Issue: 1 Dated: (Spring 1987) Pages: 8-9,33-36
A Blumstein
Date Published
6 pages
In response to interview questions, Alfred Blumstein, the chairman of the Panel on Research on Criminal Careers of the National Academy of Sciences, comments on the panel's findings and some policy implications.
The panel identified the primary characteristics of criminal careers as the individual crime rate, the criminal career duration, and crime seriousness. There is a general tendency for career criminals to repeat clusters of crime types within the broad categories of violent and property crime. Violent crime careers tend to be longer than property crime careers. There is little evidence that adult criminal careers escalate in seriousness. Rather, crimes tend to be less serious near the end of a career. The methods for identifying career criminals are only moderately better than chance and should not be used to impose sentences disproportionate to offense seriousness. Also, lengthy sentences that extend beyond the length of the average criminal career (5 to 10 years) are an inefficient use of limited prison space. The panel has proposed research that will provide more data on the parameters of individual crime careers, the distribution of these parameters among offenders, the factors associated with high individual crime rates and long careers, and the factors that influence crime participation for first-time offenders.