Penal system

Kevin Lewis

March 19, 2014

The Public's Increasing Punitiveness and Its Influence on Mass Incarceration in the United States

Peter Enns
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Following more than 30 years of rising incarceration rates, the United States now imprisons a higher proportion of its population than any country in the world. Building on theories of representation and organized interest group behavior, this article argues that an increasingly punitive public has been a primary reason for this prolific expansion. To test this hypothesis, I generate a new over-time measure of the public's support for being tough on crime. The analysis suggests that, controlling for the crime rate, illegal drug use, inequality, and the party in power, since 1953 public opinion has been a fundamental determinant of changes in the incarceration rate. If the public's punitiveness had stopped rising in the mid-1970s, the results imply that there would have been approximately 20% fewer incarcerations. Additionally, an analysis of congressional attention to criminal justice issues supports the argument that the public's attitudes have led, not followed, political elites.


Criminal Group Embeddedness And The Adverse Effects Of Arresting A Gang's Leader: A Comparative Case Study

Robert Vargas
Criminology, forthcoming

Although law enforcement agencies arrest criminal group leaders to dismantle organized crime, few studies have assessed whether such interventions produce adverse effects. Through a mixed-method comparative case study of the Latin Kings and 22 Boys street gangs in Chicago, this article examines the consequences of arresting a gang's leader. Using violent crime data, I show that a spike in violent crime took place in the first month after the arrest of the 22 Boys gang leader. In contrast, the arrest of the Latin Kings gang leader produced no change in violent crime. Using several qualitative data sources, I show that the arrest of the 22 Boys gang leader temporarily led to the gang's withdrawal from its territory, which spurred violent aggression from rival gangs in adjacent territories. In contrast, the Latin Kings gang continued its operations because the gang's prison leaders quickly appointed new leadership. The results suggest that criminal group embeddedness (or the social relations between criminal groups) can contribute to adverse effects in interventions targeting gang or other criminal group leaders.


Do Gang Members Commit Abnormal Homicide?

Matt DeLisi et al.
American Journal of Criminal Justice, March 2014, Pages 125-138

Gang membership is a robust correlate of homicide offending and victimization, but little is known about the association between gang status and various abnormal forms of homicide (e.g., multiple-victim homicide, sexual homicide, and abduction homicide). The current study utilized data from a large sample of 618 male convicted murderers to empirically examine gang status and diverse forms of homicide perpetration. Gang-involved offenders were nearly three times as likely to commit a normal homicide characterized as a single-victim murder. However, gang members were 64 % less likely to perpetrate multiple-victim murder. In other models, gang status reduced the likelihood of sexual homicide by 75 % and reduced the likelihood of abduction homicide by 56 %. These findings present an anomaly in the gang-homicide literature, and suggestions for additional research are offered.


Traumatic Brain Injury Among Newly Admitted Adolescents in the New York City Jail System

Fatos Kaba et al.
Journal of Adolescent Health, forthcoming

Purpose: Relatively little is known about the prevalence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among adolescents who come into contact with the criminal justice system.

Methods: We undertook screening for TBI among newly admitted adolescents in the New York City jail system using a validated TBI screening tool. A convenience sample of 300 male and 84 female screenings was examined.

Results: Screening revealed that 50% of male and 49% of female adolescents enter jail with a history of TBI. Incidence of TBI was assessed using patient health records, and revealed an incidence of 3,107 TBI per 100,000 person-years.

Conclusions: Elevated prevalence and incidence of TBI among incarcerated adolescents may relate to criminal justice involvement as well as friction in jail. Given the large representation of violence as a cause of TBI among our patients, we have begun focus groups with them to elicit meaningful strategies for living with and avoiding TBI.


Prior problem behavior accounts for the racial gap in school suspensions

John Paul Wright et al.
Journal of Criminal Justice, forthcoming

Purpose: A large body of empirical research finds a significant racial gap in the use of exclusionary school discipline with black students punished at rates disproportionate to whites. Furthermore, no variable or set of variables have yet to account for this discrepancy, inviting speculation that this association is caused by racial bias or racial antipathy. We investigate this link and the possibility that differential behavior may play a role.

Methods: Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class (ECLS-K), the largest sample of school-aged children in the United States, we first replicate the results of prior studies. We then estimate a second model controlling for prior problem behavior.

Results: Replicating prior studies, we first show a clear racial gap between black and white students in suspensions. However, in subsequent analyses the racial gap in suspensions was completely accounted for by a measure of the prior problem behavior of the student – a finding never before reported in the literature.

Conclusions: These findings highlight the importance of early problem behaviors and suggest that the use of suspensions by teachers and administrators may not have been as racially biased as some scholars have argued.


Probable posttraumatic stress disorder in a sample of urban jail detainees

Dawn Ruzich, Jessica Reichert & Arthur Lurigio
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, forthcoming

This study examined the nature and extent of probable posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among men in a substance abuse treatment program in a large urban jail. Specifically, it explored the prevalence of probable PTSD and other psychiatric problems among jail detainees, the types of trauma detainees experienced during different phases of their lives, and how those experiences might have contributed to the development of probable PTSD. Results showed that psychiatric problems were quite serious; nearly one-quarter of the sample reported previous psychiatric hospitalization, and nearly 10% were being currently treated with psychiatric medication. In addition, 21% of the sample met the criteria for probable PTSD, a rate five times greater than that in the general population. The current study suggests that the presence of probable PTSD among male detainees should be incorporated into the creation and implementation of jail-based behavioral healthcare services, including screening, assessment, and clinical interventions. Furthermore, in-custody drug treatment programs should adopt trauma-informed strategies for all program participants as the expected standard of care.


The Effect and Implications of Sex Offender Residence Restrictions: Evidence from a Two-State Evaluation

Beth Huebner et al.
Criminology & Public Policy, forthcoming

We evaluated the efficacy of sex offender residence restrictions in Michigan and Missouri using a quasi-experimental design with propensity score matching. First, we examined the implementation of the laws and found that sex offenders in both states were less likely to live in restricted areas after the implementation of the laws than the prerestriction sample, but the differences were not statistically significant. In our outcome analysis, we find little evidence that residence restrictions changed the prevalence of recidivism substantially for sex offenders in the postrelease period. In Michigan, trends indicate that the implementation of the laws led to a slight increase in recidivism among the sex offender groups, whereas in Missouri, this effect resulted in a slight decrease in recidivism. Technical violations also declined for both groups in Missouri. The small effect sizes, inconsistent results across states, and the null results between sex offender and non–sex offender models cast doubt on the potential usefulness of the laws to influence individual patterns of recidivism broadly.


The ‘pains’ of electronic monitoring: A slap on the wrist or just as bad as prison?

Brian Payne, David May & Peter Wood
Criminal Justice Studies, forthcoming

The purpose of this research is to examine whether inmates that have served electronic monitoring (EM) find it more punitive than offenders that have not served electronic monitoring. We asked a sample of 1194 inmates currently incarcerated in a Midwestern state to estimate exchange rates of electronic monitoring over prison by rating how many months of EM they would serve to avoid 12 months in prison. The results indicate that inmates view EM as less punitive than prison and that monitored offenders find EM more punitive than unmonitored offenders. Additionally, black inmates were more likely to have served EM than white inmates and older inmates find EM more punitive than younger inmates. Previously monitored offenders report that they will be less likely to rely on family and friends upon release from prison. These results suggest that EM is perceived as a punitive sanction by those that have experienced it. Furthermore, racial differences uncovered here may help explain why minorities view alternative sanctions as particularly punitive and may also partially explain why the experience of EM may negatively impact family relationship among those that have served EM.


The Minimum Wage and Crime

Andrew Beauchamp & Stacey Chan
B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, forthcoming

Does crime respond to changes in the minimum wage? A growing body of empirical evidence indicates that increases in the minimum wage have a displacement effect on low-skilled workers. Economic reasoning provides the possibility that disemployment may cause youth to substitute from legal work to crime. However, there is also the countervailing effect of a higher wage raising the opportunity cost of crime for those who remain employed. We use the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 cohort to measure the effect of increases in the minimum wage on self-reported criminal activity and examine employment–crime substitution. Exploiting changes in state and federal minimum wage laws from 1997 to 2010, we find that workers who are affected by a change in the minimum wage are more likely to commit crime, become idle, and lose employment. Individuals experiencing a binding minimum wage change were more likely to commit crime and work only part time. Analyzing heterogeneity shows those with past criminal connections are especially likely to see decreased employment and increased crime following a policy change, suggesting that reduced employment effects dominate any wage effects. The findings have implications for policy regarding both the low-wage labor market and efforts to deter criminal activity.


“Last Hired, First Fired”: The Effect of the Unemployment Rate on the Probability of Repeat Offending

Stewart D’Alessio, Lisa Stolzenberg & David Eitle
American Journal of Criminal Justice, March 2014, Pages 77-93

Research examining the connection between the unemployment rate and the aggregate crime is inconclusive. One explanation for the inconsistent findings is that the unemployment rate influences the criminal activity of repeat and first-time offenders in different ways. Results support this thesis by revealing an inverted U-shaped association between the unemployment rate and the probability of repeat offending. The curvilinear relationship likely results from repeat offenders and those lacking a criminal record entering and exiting the labor force at different levels of unemployment. Our findings highlight the role that the unemployment rate plays in affecting repeat offending and underscore the importance of distinguishing between repeat and first-time offending when analyzing the effect of the unemployment rate on crime.


Mythical numbers and the proceeds of organised crime: Estimating mafia proceeds in Italy

Francesco Calderoni
Global Crime, forthcoming

Organised crime is a field vulnerable to mythical numbers, i.e. exaggerated estimates lacking empirical support, but acquiring acceptance through repetition. The figures on mafia proceeds in Italy are a striking example of this problem. This study proposes an estimation of mafia proceeds in Italy from nine criminal activities (sexual exploitation of women, illicit firearms trafficking, drug trafficking, counterfeiting, the illicit cigarette trade, illicit gambling, illicit waste disposal, loan sharking, and extortion racketeering) by region and type of mafia (Cosa Nostra, Camorra, ‘Ndrangheta, Apulian mafias, and other mafias). The results estimate yearly mafia proceeds at approximately €10.7 bn (0.7% of the Italian GDP), discussing the impact on the regional and national economies and the differences among the types of mafias as to their geographical sources of revenues.


Cost Analysis of Youth Violence Prevention

Adam Sharp et al.
Pediatrics, March 2014, Pages 448 -453

Background and objective: Effective violence interventions are not widely implemented, and there is little information about the cost of violence interventions. Our goal is to report the cost of a brief intervention delivered in the emergency department that reduces violence among 14- to 18-year-olds.

Methods: Primary outcomes were total costs of implementation and the cost per violent event or violence consequence averted. We used primary and secondary data sources to derive the costs to implement a brief motivational interviewing intervention and to identify the number of self-reported violent events (eg, severe peer aggression, peer victimization) or violence consequences averted. One-way and multi-way sensitivity analyses were performed.

Results: Total fixed and variable annual costs were estimated at $71 784. If implemented, 4208 violent events or consequences could be prevented, costing $17.06 per event or consequence averted. Multi-way sensitivity analysis accounting for variable intervention efficacy and different cost estimates resulted in a range of $3.63 to $54.96 per event or consequence averted.

Conclusions: Our estimates show that the cost to prevent an episode of youth violence or its consequences is less than the cost of placing an intravenous line and should not present a significant barrier to implementation.


Long-term recidivism of mental health court defendants

Bradley Ray
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, forthcoming

The first MHC was established in 1997 and now, over 15 years later, there are over 300 mental health courts in the United States. In a relatively short time these courts have become an established criminal justice intervention for persons with a mental illness. However, few studies have looked at the long-term outcomes of MHCs on criminal recidivism. Of the studies evaluating the impact of MHCs on criminal recidivism, most follow defendants after entry into the court during their participation, and only a few have followed defendants after court exit for periods of one or two years. This study follows MHC defendants for a minimum of five years to examine recidivism post-exit with particular attention to MHC completion's effect. Findings show that 53.9% of all MHC defendants were rearrested in the follow-up and averaged 15 months to rearrest. Defendants who completed MHC were significantly less likely to be rearrested (39.6% vs. 74.8%), and went longer before recidivating (17.15 months vs. 12.27 months) than those who did not complete. This study suggests that MHCs can reduce criminal recidivism among offenders with mental illness and that this effect is sustained for several years after defendants are no longer under the court's supervision.


Maybe I Should Do This Alone: A Comparison of Solo and Co-offending Robbery Outcomes

Marie Skubak Tillyer & Rob Tillyer
Justice Quarterly, forthcoming

There has been a notable increase in co-offending research in recent years, with most studies focusing on the causes and correlates of co-offending. There is little known, however, about the consequences of co-offending and how it may influence crime event outcomes for the offender. The present study compares the monetary reward and arrest risk of solo and co-offending robberies. Data from the National Incident Based Reporting System were analyzed to examine the characteristics and outcomes of robberies perpetrated by one, two, three, and four or more offenders. Though co-offending incidents were associated with greater total property value stolen, co-offending incidents resulted in significantly less property value per offender, controlling for other incident characteristics. The likelihood of an incident resulting in an arrest significantly increased with the number of offenders. We discuss the implications of our findings for theory and research on the real and perceived benefits and costs of co-offending.


The Role of Transformation Narratives in Desistance Among Released Lifers

Marieke Liem & Nicholas Richardson
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming

Research on desistance emphasizes the importance of the transformation narrative, in which the individual has replaced his old, criminal self with a new, law-abiding self. Key elements of the transformation narrative are generative motivations, the core self, and a sense of agency. Thus far, it is not known what role these elements play in desistance among released lifers. To fill this caveat, we conducted in-depth life interviews with 67 individuals who had served a life sentence. Almost all interviewees presented a transformation narrative that included a good core self and generative motivations, including those who persisted in criminal behavior. We found that individual agency was a key factor distinguishing the paroled lifers from the re-incarcerated lifers. Findings suggest that rather than learning to present a transformation narrative focused on reflecting a good core self and generative motivations, (post-)prison programs should focus on restoring agency to ensure successful re-entry.


The influence of neighborhood characteristics on police officers' encounters with persons suspected to have a serious mental illness

Shaily Krishan et al.
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, forthcoming

Objective: Police officers' decisions and behaviors are impacted by the neighborhood context in which police encounters occur. For example, officers may use greater force and be more likely to make arrests in disadvantaged neighborhoods. We examined whether neighborhood characteristics influence police encounters with individuals suspected to have a serious mental illness, addictive disorder, or developmental disability.

Method: We obtained data on 916 encounters from 166 officers in six jurisdictions in Georgia, USA and abstracted geographical data pertaining to the location of these encounters from United States Decennial Census data. Encounters were nested within 163 census tracts. Officer-reported data covered general encounter characteristics, the officer's perception of the subject's condition, subject demographics, use of force, and disposition of the encounter (e.g., arrest v. referral or transport to treatment services). Geographical data included 17 variables representing population and housing characteristics of the census tracts, from which three indices pertaining to neighborhood income, stability, and immigration status were derived using factor-analytic techniques. We then examined associations of these indices with various encounter-related variables using multi-level analysis.

Results: Encounters taking place in higher-income and higher-stability census tracts were more likely to be dispatch-initiated and take place in a private home compared to those in lower-income and lower-stability neighborhoods. In higher-income neighborhoods, encounters were more likely to involve a subject suspected to have a mental illness (as opposed to an addictive disorder or developmental disability) and less likely to involve a subject suspected to have alcohol problems. The officer's level of force used was not associated with neighborhood factors. Regarding disposition, although the likelihood of arrest was unrelated to neighborhood characteristics, encounters taking place in higher-immigrant neighborhoods were more likely to result in referral or transport to services than those in lower-immigrant neighborhoods.

Conclusion: Neighborhood characteristics are important to consider in research on police interactions with individuals with serious mental illnesses, addictive disorders, or developmental disabilities. Such research could inform departmental training policies and procedures based on the needs of the jurisdictions served.


Profiling, Screening and Criminal Recruitment

Christopher Cotton & Cheng Li
Journal of Public Economic Theory, forthcoming

We model major criminal activity as a game in which a law enforcement officer chooses the rate at which to screen different population groups, and a criminal organization (e.g. drug cartel, terrorist cell) chooses the observable characteristics of its recruits. Our model best describes smuggling or terrorism activities at borders, airports and other security checkpoints. The most effective law enforcement policy imposes only moderate restrictions on the officer's ability to profile. In contrast to models of decentralized crime, requiring equal treatment never improves the effectiveness of law enforcement.


Estimating the Effect of Crime Risk on Property Values and Time on Market: Evidence from Megan's Law in Virginia

Scott Wentland, Bennie Waller & Raymond Brastow
Real Estate Economics, Spring 2014, Pages 223–251

We examine neighborhood externalities that arise from the perceived risk associated with the proximity of a registered sex offender's residence. We find large negative externality effects on a property's price and liquidity, employing empirical techniques that include a fixed-effects OLS model, a correction for sample selection bias and censoring using a Heckman treatment, and a three-stage least-squares model to account for simultaneity bias in the joint determination of a home's sale price and liquidity. Additionally, we find amplified effects for homes with more bedrooms (a proxy for children) and if the nearby offender is designated by the state as “violent.”


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