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Modern Control Theory and the Limits of Criminal Justice$
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Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190069797

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190069797.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 22 June 2021

Prisons, Deterrence, and Incapacitation

Prisons, Deterrence, and Incapacitation

A View from a Prevention Perspective

(p.151) Chapter 8 Prisons, Deterrence, and Incapacitation
Modern Control Theory and the Limits of Criminal Justice

Michael Gottfredson

Travis Hirschi

Oxford University Press

Modern control theory doubts the effectiveness of criminal sanctions to affect the crime rate substantially. This view is contrasted with the expectations of the criminal career perspective, a leading view on the nature of crime and the role of the criminal justice system in controlling crime by deterrence and incapacitation. The contrast is illustrated with differing expectations about how age is related to crime (including serious offending), the importance of the versatility effect for offending, and evidence about how changes in incarceration levels are expected to be related to crime rates. On all counts, the results of competent contemporary research support the expectations of the general theory of crime over the expectations of criminal career/career criminal traditions. The research on statistical modeling and offender typologies in the criminal careers tradition has not provided consistent or replicated results demonstrating that criminal sanctions effectively incapacitate or deter offending. Control theory is inconsistent with mass incarceration, with the belief that increasing severity of sanctions reduces crime rates either by incapacitation or by deterrence, and notes that crime tends overwhelmingly to decline with age for all offenders beginning in early adulthood.

Keywords:   prisons, control theory, self control, deterrence, criminal career model, incapacitation, mass incarceration, career criminals, trajectory models

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