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Prison Experience of Career Criminals

NCJ Number
J Petersilia; P Honig; C Hubay
Date Published
111 pages
The treatment needs and custodial problems associated with career criminals are explored, along with the question of whether these inmates are treated selectively.
Data were obtained from samples of about 1,300 inmates from 11 prisons in California, Michigan, and Texas. Inmate information was derived from official corrections records and the inmate survey--a detailed questionnaire completed by the inmate. Education and vocational training programs appeared to be vigorous, while alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs, as well as counseling, seemed minimal. Analysis of all program types shows that nearly half of the inmates who had participated felt the program would reduce their future criminality. The effectiveness of the programs was not assessed. There was little evidence that career criminal inmates have greater treatment needs than the general prison population or that they participate less in relevant prison rehabilitation programs. Neither do prison staffs identify and selectively deal with career criminals. Career criminals were not found to be the primary source of prison violence. Younger inmates committed more serious and frequent infractions of every type. It is recommended that the corrections system continue its policy of using criminal history information in determining initial custody rating and, as time passes, allowing placement and privileges to be governed by institutional behavior. Further, it is suggested that no special rehabilitation programs for career criminals be established at this time. In particular, it is inappropriate that programs be tailored to those inmates prosecuted by special career criminal units. It is advised, however, that although this study suggests that career criminals are not more likely to exhibit negative prison behavior or attempt escape, the situation may change in the next few years as career criminal prosecution units focus on younger criminals with serious criminal histories. Tabular data and references are provided.