Advertisement

Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 579–600 | Cite as

The Incapacitation Effect of First-Time Imprisonment: A Matched Samples Comparison

  • Hilde WerminkEmail author
  • Robert Apel
  • Paul Nieuwbeerta
  • Arjan A. J. Blokland
Original Paper

Abstract

Objectives

The logic of incapacitation is the prevention of crime via the forced removal of known offenders from the community. The challenge is to provide a plausible estimate of how many crimes an incarcerated individual would have committed, were s/he free in the community rather than confined in prison. The objective of this study is to provide estimates of the incapacitation effect of first-time imprisonment from a sample of convicted offenders.

Methods

The data are official criminal records of all individuals convicted in The Netherlands in 1997. Two different analytical strategies are used to estimate an incapacitation effect. First, the offending rate of the imprisoned individuals prior to their confinement in 1997 provides a “within-person counterfactual”. Second, imprisoned offenders are paired with comparable non-imprisoned offenders using the method of propensity score matching in order to estimate a “between-person counterfactual”. Incapacitation estimates are provided separately for juvenile imprisonment (ages 12–17) as well as adult imprisonment (ages 18–50), and for male and female offenders.

Results

The best estimate is that 1 year of incarceration prevents between 0.17 and 0.21 convictions per year. The use of additional data sources indicates that this corresponds to between roughly 2.0 and 2.5 criminal offenses recorded by the police.

Conclusions

The current results suggest that, insofar as imprisonment is used with the primary goal of reducing crime through incapacitation, a general increase in the use of incarceration as the sanction of choice is not likely to yield major crime control benefits.

Keywords

Imprisonment Incapacitation effect Propensity score matching Lambda 

References

  1. Aebi MF, Aromaa K, de Cavarlay BA, Barclay G, Gruszczyñska B, von Hofer H, Hysi V, Jehle J-M, Killias M, Smit P, Tavares C (2006) European sourcebook of crime and criminal justice statistics—2006, 3rd edn. Boom Juridische, The HagueGoogle Scholar
  2. Apel R, Blokland AAJ, Nieuwbeerta P, van Schellen M (2010) The impact of imprisonment on marriage and divorce: a risk set matching approach. J Quant Criminol 26:269–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Auerhahn K (1999) Selective incapacitation and the problem of prediction. Criminology 37:703–734CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Auerhahn K (2003) Selective incapacitation and public policy: evaluating California’s imprisonment crisis. State University of New York Press, AlbanyGoogle Scholar
  5. Avi-Itzhak B, Shinnar R (1973) Quantitative models in crime control. J Crim Justice 1:185–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barbarino A, Mastrobuoni G (2008) The incapacitative effect of incarceration: evidence from several Italian collective pardons. Unpublished manuscript. Research and Statistics Division, Federal Reserve Board, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  7. Bhati AS (2007) Estimating the number of crimes averted by incapacitation: an information theoretic approach. J Quant Criminol 23:35–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bijleveld CCJH, Smit PR (2005) Crime and punishment in the Netherlands, 1980–1999. In: Tonry M, Farrington DP (eds) Crime and punishment in Western countries, 1980–1999. Crime and justice: a review of research, vol 33. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 161–211Google Scholar
  9. Blokland AAJ, Nieuwbeerta P (2007) Selectively incapacitating frequent offenders: costs and benefits of various penal scenarios. J Quant Criminol 23:327–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Blokland AAJ, Nieuwbeerta P (2010) Considering criminal continuity: testing for heterogeneity and state dependence in the association of past to future offending. Aust N Z J Criminol 43(3):526–556CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Blumstein A, Cohen J (1979) Estimation of individual crime rates from arrest records. J Crim Law Criminol 70:561–585CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Blumstein A, Nagin D (1978) On the optimum use of incarceration for crime control. Oper Res 26:381–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Blumstein A, Cohen J, Nagin D (eds) (1978) Deterrence and incapacitation: estimating the effects of criminal sanctions on crime rates. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  14. Blumstein A, Cohen J, Roth JA, Visher CA (eds) (1986) Criminal careers and “career criminals”, vol 1. National Academy Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  15. Blumstein A, Canela-Cacho JA, Cohen J (1993) Filtered sampling from populations with heterogeneous event frequencies. Manag Sci 39:886–899CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Bushway SD, Brame R, Paternoster R (2004) Connecting desistance and recidivism: measuring changes over the life-span. In: Maruna S, Immarigeon R (eds) After crime and punishment: pathways to offender reintegration. Suny Press, AlbanyGoogle Scholar
  17. Canela-Cacho JA, Blumstein A, Cohen J (1997) Relationship between the offending frequency (λ) of imprisoned and free offenders. Criminology 35:133–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chaiken JM, Chaiken MR (1982) Varieties of criminal behavior. Report No. R-2814-NIJ. Rand, Santa MonicaGoogle Scholar
  19. Chaiken JM, Rolph JE (1980) Selective incapacitation strategies based on estimated crime rates. Oper Res 28:1259–1274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Clarke SH (1974) Getting ‘em out of circulation: does incarceration of juvenile offenders reduce crime? J Crim Law Criminol 65:528–535CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Cohen J (1983) Incapacitation as a strategy for crime control: possibilities and pitfalls. In: Tonry M (ed) Crime and justice: a review of research, vol 5. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 1–84Google Scholar
  22. DiIulio JJ Jr (1990) Crime and punishment in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, MilwaukeeGoogle Scholar
  23. Donohue JJ III (2009) Assessing the relative benefits of incarceration: The overall change over the previous decades and the benefits on the margin. In: Raphael S, Stoll MA (eds) Do prisons make us safer? The benefits and costs of the prison boom. Russell Sage Foundation, New York, pp 269–341Google Scholar
  24. Donohue JJ III, Siegelman P (1998) Allocating resources among prisons and social programs in the battle against crime. J Legal Stud 27:1–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Downes D (2007) Visions of penal control in the Netherlands. In: Tonry M (ed) Crime, punishment, and politics in comparative perspective. Crime and justice: a review of research, vol 36. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 93–125Google Scholar
  26. English K (1993) Self-reported crime rates of women prisoners. J Quant Criminol 9:357–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Farrington DP (1986) Age and crime. In: Tonry M, Morris N (eds) Crime and justice: an annual review. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  28. Farrington DP (2003) Key results from the first 40 years of the Cambridge study in delinquent development. In: Thornberry TP, Krohn MD (eds) Taking stock of delinquency: an overview of findings from contemporary longitudinal studie. Kluwer–Plenum, New York, pp 137–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Garland D (2001) The culture of control: crime and social order in contemporary society. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  30. Gibbs JP (1968) Crime, punishment, and deterrence. Southwest Soc Sci Q 48:515–530Google Scholar
  31. Gottfredson SD, Gottfredson DM (1994) Behavioral prediction and the problem of incapacitation. Criminology 32:441–474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Greenberg DF (1975) The incapacitative effect of imprisonment: some estimates. Law Soc Rev 9:541–580CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Greenwood P, Abrahamse A (1982) Selective incapacitation. Report No. R-2815-NIJ. Rand, Santa MonicaGoogle Scholar
  34. Greenwood P, Turner S (1987) Selective incapacitation revisited. Report No. R-3397-NIJ. Rand, Santa MonicaGoogle Scholar
  35. Hagan J, Dinovitzer R (1999) Collateral consequences of imprisonment for children, communities, and prisoners. In: Tonry M, Petersilia J (eds) Prisons, crime and justice: a review of research, vol 26. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 121–162Google Scholar
  36. Harcourt BE (2007) Against prediction: profiling, policing, and punishing in an actuarial age. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  37. Horney J, Marshall IH (1991) Measuring lambda through self-reports. Criminology 29:471–495CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Horney J, Marshall IH (1992) An experimental comparison of two self-report methods for measuring lambda. J Res Crime Delinq 29:102–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Johnson R, Raphael S (2009) How much crime reduction does the marginal prisoner buy? Unpublished manuscript. Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  40. Kessler D, Levitt SD (1999) Using sentence enhancements to distinguish between deterrence and incapacitation. J Law Econ 42:343–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Killias M, Barclay G, Smit P, Aebi MF, Tavares C, de Cavarlay BA, Jehle J-M, von Hofer H, Gruszczyñska B, Hysi V, Aromaa K (2003) European sourcebook of crime and criminal justice statistics—2003, 2nd edn. Boom Juridische, The HagueGoogle Scholar
  42. Kuziemko I, Levitt SD (2004) An empirical analysis of imprisoning drug offenders. J Public Econ 88:2043–2066CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Levitt SD (1996) The effect of prison population size on crime rates: evidence from prison overcrowding legislation. Q J Econ 111:319–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Liedka RV, Piehl AM, Useem B (2006) The crime-control effect of incarceration: does scale matter? Criminol Public Policy 5:245–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Maltz MD, Pollock SM (1980) Artificial inflation of a delinquency rate by a selection artifact. Oper Res 28:547–559CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Marvell TB, Moody CE (1994) Prison population growth and crime reduction. J Quant Criminol 10:109–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Miles TJ, Ludwig J (2007) The silence of the lambdas: deterring incapacitation research. J Quant Criminol 23:287–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Miranne AC, Geerken MR (1991) The New Orleans inmate survey: a test of Greenwood’s predictive scale. Criminol 29:497–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Nagin DS, Cullen FT, Jonson CL (2009) Imprisonment and re-offending. In: Tonry M (ed) Crime and justice: a review of research, vol 38. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 115–200Google Scholar
  50. Nieuwbeerta P, Nagin DS, Blokland AAJ (2009) Assessing the impact of First-time imprisonment on offenders’ subsequent criminal career development: a matched samples comparison. J Quant Criminol 25(3):227–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Owens EG (2009) More time, less crime? Estimating the incapacitative effect of sentence enhancements. J Law Econ 52:551–579CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Pager D (2003) The mark of a criminal record. Am J Sociol 108:937–975CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Peterson M, Chaiken J, Ebener P, Honig P (1982) Survey of prison and jail inmates: Background and method. Report No. R-220-DOJ. Rand, Santa MonicaGoogle Scholar
  54. Piquero AR, Blumstein A (2007) Does incapacitation reduce crime? J Quant Criminol 23:267–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ramirez JR, Crano WD (2003) Deterrence and incapacitation: an interrupted time-series analysis of California’s three-strikes law. J Appl Soc Psychol 33:110–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Reuter P, Bushway SD (2007) Revisiting incapacitation: can we generate new estimates? J Quant Criminol 23:259–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rolph JE, Chaiken JM, Houchens RL (1981) Methods for Estimating Crime Rates of Individuals. Report No. R-2730-NIJ. Rand, Santa MonicaGoogle Scholar
  58. Rosenbaum PR, Rubin DB (1983) The central role of the propensity score in observational studies for causal effects. Biometrika 70:41–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Rosenbaum PR, Rubin DB (1984) Reducing bias in observational studies using subclassification on the propensity score. J Am Stat Assoc 79:516–524CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Rosenbaum PR, Rubin DB (1985) Constructing a control group using multivariate matched sampling methods that incorporate the propensity score. Am Stat 39:33–38Google Scholar
  61. Sabol WJ, Couture H, Harrison PM (2007) Prisoners in 2006. Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin (No. NCJ 219416). U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  62. Shinnar S, Shinnar R (1975) The effects of the criminal justice system on the control of crime: a quantitative approach. Law Soc Rev 9:581–611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Snodgrass MG, Blokland AAJ, Haviland A, Nieuwbeerta P, Nagin D (2011) Does the time cause the crime? An examination of the relationship between time served and reoffending in the Netherlands. Criminol 49:1149–1194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Spelman W (1994) Criminal incapacitation. Plenum Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Spelman W (2000) What recent studies do (and don’t) tell us about imprisonment and crime. In: Tonry M (ed) Crime and justice: a review of research, vol 27. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp 419–494Google Scholar
  66. Spohn CC (2009) How do judges decide? The search for fairness and justice in punishment, 2nd edn. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  67. Sweeten G, Apel R (2007) Incapacitation: revisiting an old question with a new method and new data. J Quant Criminol 23:303–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Tak PJP (2003) The Dutch criminal justice system: organization and operation. Boom Legal Publishers, MeppelGoogle Scholar
  69. Tierney L (1983) A selection artifact in delinquency data revisited. Oper Res 31:852–865CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Tonry M, Bijleveld CCJH (eds) (2007) Crime and justice in the Netherlands. Crime and justice: a review of research, vol 35. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  71. Uggen C, Manza J, Thompson M (2006) Citizenship, democracy and the civic reintegration of criminal offenders. Ann Am Acad Pol Soc Sci 605:281–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Visher C (1987) Incapacitation and crime control: does a “lock ‘em up” strategy reduce crime? Justice Q 4:513–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Vollaard B (2011) Preventing crime through selective incapacitation. CentER discussion Paper No. 2010-141Google Scholar
  74. Wermink H, Blokland A, Nieuwbeerta P, Nagin D, Tollenaar N (2010) Comparing the effects of community service and short-term imprisonment on recidivism: a matched samples approach. J Exp Criminol 6:325–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Western B (2002) The impact of incarceration on wage mobility and inequality. Am Sociol Rev 67:526–546CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Western B (2006) Punishment and inequality in America. Russell Sage Foundation, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  77. Zimring FE, Hawkins G (1995) Incapacitation: penal confinement and the restraint of crime. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hilde Wermink
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Robert Apel
    • 3
  • Paul Nieuwbeerta
    • 2
    • 4
  • Arjan A. J. Blokland
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.Kamerlingh Onnes GebouwLeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Leiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Rutgers UniversityNewarkUSA
  4. 4.Utrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Nederlands Studiecentrum Criminaliteit en Rechtshandhaving (NSCR)—Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law EnforcementAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations