Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice

2014 Edition
| Editors: Gerben Bruinsma, David Weisburd


Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-5690-2_616


Criminologists typically consider four possible mechanisms by which incarceration can prevent crime: general deterrence, specific deterrence, rehabilitation, and incapacitation.
  • General deterrence focuses on the changes in behavior created by the threat of punishment. Individuals may choose not to do a particular crime in order to avoid the possibility of incarceration.

  • Specific deterrence focuses on the possible change in behavior after the experience of prison. An individual who has experienced prison may update their expectations about prison and decide, on the basis of that experience, to avoid criminal activity in the future. Of course, the experience of prison may also be less harsh than the person was expecting, leading to an increase in the rate of offending over what the person would have committed absent the prison experience.

  • Rehabilitation refers to changes in the underlying “criminogenic” factors that the individual brings to prison, usually through targeted...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Recommended Reading and References

  1. Auerhahn K (1999) Selective incapacitation and the problem of prediction. Criminology 37:703–733Google Scholar
  2. Barbarino, A, Mastrobuonie G (2012) The incapacitation effect of incarceration: evidence from several Italian collective pardons. IZA Discussion paper no. 6360Google Scholar
  3. Berk R (2011a) Asymmetric loss functions for forecasting in criminal justice settings. J Quant Criminol 27:107–123Google Scholar
  4. Berk R (2011b) Balancing the costs of forecasting errors in parole decisions. Albany Law Rev 74:1071–1085Google Scholar
  5. Bhati A (2007) Estimating the number of crimes averted by incapacitation: an information theoretic approach. J Quant Criminol 23:355–375Google Scholar
  6. Blokland A, Nieuwbeerta P (2007) Selectively incapacitating frequent offenders: costs and benefits of various penal scenarios. J Quant Criminol 23:327–353Google Scholar
  7. Blumstein A (1983) Selective incapacitation as a means of crime control. Am Behav Sci 27:87–108Google Scholar
  8. Blumstein A, Cohen J, Nagin D (1978) Deterrence and incapacitation: estimating the effects of criminal sanctions on crime rates. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  9. Bushway S, Smith J (2007) Sentencing using statistical treatment rules: what we don’t know can hurt us. J Quant Criminol 23:377–387Google Scholar
  10. Gottfredson S, Gottfredson D (1994) Behavioral prediction and the problem of incapacitation. Criminology 32:441–474Google Scholar
  11. Gottfredson S, Moriarty L (2006) Statistical risk assessment: old problems and new applications. Crime and Delinq 52:178–200Google Scholar
  12. Johnson R, Raphael S (2007) How much crime reduction does the marginal prisoner buy? Working paper. Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  13. Kessler D, Levitt S (1999) Using sentence enhancements to distinguish between deterrence and incapacitation. J Law Econ 42:343–363Google Scholar
  14. Kuziemko I, Levitt S (2004) An empirical analysis of imprisoning drug offenders. J Public Econ 88:2043–2066Google Scholar
  15. Levitt S (1996) The effect of prison population size on crime rates: evidence from prison overcrowding litigation. Q J Econ 111:319–351Google Scholar
  16. Miles T, Ludwig J (2007) The silence of the lambdas: deterring incapacitation research. J Quant Criminol 23:287–301Google Scholar
  17. Owens E (2009) More time, less crime? Estimating the incapacitative effect of sentence enhancements. J Law Econ 52:551–579Google Scholar
  18. Piehl A, Liedka RV, Useem B (2006) The crime-control effect of incarceration: does scale matter? Criminol Public Policy 5:245–275Google Scholar
  19. Piquero A, Blumstein A (2007) Does incapacitation reduce crime? J Quant Criminol 23:267–285Google Scholar
  20. Piquero A, Farrington D, Blumstein A (2003) The criminal career paradigm: background and recent developments. Crime Justice: A Rev Res 30:359–506Google Scholar
  21. Rhodes W (2011) Predicting criminal recidivism: a research note. J Exp Criminol 7:57–71Google Scholar
  22. Spelman W (1994) Criminal incapacitation. Plenum Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. Spelman W (2000) What recent studies do (and don’t) tell us about imprisonment and crime. Crime Justice 27:419–494Google Scholar
  24. Sweeten G, Apel R (2007) Incapacitation: revisiting an old question with a new method and new data. J Quant Criminol 23:303–326Google Scholar
  25. Vollaard B (2012) Preventing crime through selective incapacitation. Econ J 123:262–284Google Scholar
  26. Zimring F (1997) Incapacitation: penal confinement and the restraint of crime. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Criminal JusticeUniversity at Albany, State University of New YorkAlbanyUSA