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Life Interrupted: Studying the Effects of Incarceration on Criminal Trajectories

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)
Original Solicitation

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2005, $35,000)

This project will develop, test, and demonstrate the utility of an event history-based, information-theoretic method for analyzing the effects of incarceration on the criminal trajectories of offenders released from prison. The goal of this project is to develop a framework for assessing the incapacitative, deterrent, and criminogenic effects of incarceration and for investigating the individual, contextual, and policy relevant correlates of these effects. The project has four objectives:

1. To visually depict and empirically model the criminal history accumulation process of a sample of individuals released from prison;

2. To assess the post-release micro-trajectories of each released individual against the backdrop of a counterfactual criminal history-based micro-trajectory;

3. To classify incarceration as having had either a criminogenic, a deterrent, or an incapacitative effect on the criminal trajectories of each of the individuals in the sample; and

4. To study the individual, contextual, and policy-relevant correlates of these classifications.

Findings from this research will shed light on the contexts under which incarceration may be expected to have a beneficial (deterrent) impact. Furthermore, the analytical approach developed in this project, if successful, could ultimately be used to develop practitioner-oriented tools. For example, tools to aid correctional authorities in devising customized release plans that aim to reduce the likelihood of recidivism could be developed using the framework developed in this project.

This project will develop and test this analytical framework using the recently archived (at NACJD) Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 1994 Recidivism Study (ICPSR 3355). The this project will apply the concept of a Parity Progression Ratio (PPR) to study the criminal history accumulation process. Central to the PPR strategy is the concept of the ratio of persons making a progression (of some sort within some period) to the number of persons at risk of making that progression (of the same sort within the same period). A progression ratio is distinct from a transition ratio in that the former has an irreversible ordering where as the latter may be in both directions. For example, studying changes in the employment status of individuals would require an emphasis on the transition probabilities (or ratios) between states of employment and unemployment. Studying the family formation process, on the other hand, would require acknowledgment of the fact that births come in an order. Hence, one would then be interested in studying the birth progression probability (or ratio).

Date Created: May 2, 2005