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The criminal career profile : a measure of criminal careers

Date

2006-11-30

Journal Title

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Publisher

ORCID

Type

Degree Level

Doctoral

Abstract

The term criminal career is used to describe the course or progress of criminal activity: its onset, duration, termination, severity, and change in severity. Such a term has important implications, given that significant criminal justice, social, and health policies such as crime control, parole, and correctional treatment and management are predicated on achieving the reduction of criminal careers of serious, repeat offenders. Despite its conceptual simplicity, however, criminal career is often treated as having no depth or scope, for example, merely as the number of crimes or length of prison sentence. These indices often give no or little consideration to criminal career parameters and tend to account for only a small portion of the construct of criminal careers. Ideally, a simple metric to measure the onset, duration, termination, severity, and change in severity of a pattern of criminal activities is needed to facilitate the description and measurement of criminal careers of offenders. The Criminal Career Profile (CCP), which uses commonly available criminological information and requires minimal professional skills to execute, can be considered a simple and precise measure of criminal careers. The CCP is a chronological representation on a Cartesian plane of the time in years an offender has spent in prison (y-axis) plotted against the time in years spent out of prison (x-axis) of all incarcerations and time spent in the community. Given that the CCP is a step function, a regression line can be generated. Serious crimes are generally given longer sentences, and more time in than out of prison would generate a steeper regression line. Shallower regression lines result from less time in than out of prison. As such, the CCP regression line can be considered an indication of the seriousness of offending, and the slope or angle of the regression line can be considered a quantitative index of criminal career severity. Larger slopes or angles (used in this Program of Research) suggest more serious criminal careers. Conversely, smaller slopes or angles suggest less serous criminal careers. Taken altogether, the CCP can provide a quantitative measure of criminal careers: its onset (age at first conviction, which is plotted as the first point on a CCP graph), duration (total time in and out of prison since onset), severity (CCP slope/angle), change in severity (change in CCP slope/angle), and termination (end point or when the CCP slope or angle becomes smaller and closer to 0).This Program of Research was done to assess the CCP’s validity and utility in measuring offenders’ criminal career. More specifically, the investigation focused on the seriousness of criminal careers. A number of criteria were used to validate the CCP angle’s ability to measure criminal career severity. In Study 1, psychopaths and violent recidivists showed a significantly larger CCP angle than nonpsychopaths and violent nonrecidivists, respectively. Finer groupings based on risk (high, medium, and low), a number of risk measures (Psychopathy Checklist – Revised, Violence Risk Scale, and Violence Risk Scale – Sexual Offender Version), and different types of offenders (i.e. violent, nonviolent, sexual, Dangerous Offenders) were used in Study 2. Two consistent findings across different groups of offenders in Study 2 were CCP angles significantly varied as a function of risk group and correlated with risk ratings. The pattern of results was that larger CCP angles tended to be associated with worse risk groups. In Study 3, both treated offenders and treatment dropouts showed a reduction in CCP angles from pre- to post-treatment. A nonsignificant interaction of group by treatment, however, suggests that post-treatment changes could not be attributed to treatment. Finally, Study 4 showed that CCP angles change with age. Taken altogether, the results of the four studies provided converging evidence for the validity of the CCP as a measure of criminal careers and the CCP angle as a measure of criminal career severity.

Description

Keywords

prison sample, males, men, dangerous offenders, low-risk, medium-risk, high-risk, high-rate offenders, persistent offenders, chronic offenders, serious offenders, Canadian sample, correctional sample, longitudinal, measure of recidivism

Citation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Psychology

Program

Psychology

Citation

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DOI

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