« Interesting defense arguments for sentencing leniency in Amish beard-cutting case | Main | Should a US Attorney take pride in helping to "have produced the longest average prison sentences in the country"? »

February 1, 2013

"When Crime Pays: Prison Can Teach Some To Be Better Criminals"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable NPR story, which reports on some interesting research that reaffirms my gut feeling that, at least for certain types of offenders, sending some people to prison may ultimately increase, rather than decrease, future criminal activity.  Here is an excerpt:

In popular lore — movies, books and blogs — criminals who go to prison don't come out reformed. They come out worse. Scientists who have attempted to empirically analyze this theory have reached mixed conclusions, with analyses suggesting that activities like drug addiction or gangs are what determines whether the correctional system actually gets criminals to correct their ways.

What else could be at work?

Donald T. Hutcherson II, a sociology professor at Ohio University in Lancaster, recently decided to tackle the question by mining the vast data in the U.S. government's National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The survey conducts incredibly detailed and confidential interviews, and then repeats those interviews with the same people year after year — often going to extraordinary lengths to track down those who may have moved overseas or ended up in prison.

Included in the survey are questions about how much money individuals make legally and illegally. Because the survey also ascertains whether people have spent time in prison, Hutcherson pored through data from tens of thousands of queries to a large number of young people to establish whether illegal earnings went up or down after individuals served time.

If prison reformed criminals, illegal earnings once people were released ought to have gone down. But if prison was a "finishing school" for criminals, illegal earnings after serving time should have increased. "Spending time in prison leads to increased criminal earnings," Hutcherson says. "On average, a person can make roughly $11,000 more [illegally] from spending time in prison versus a person who does not spend time in prison."...

Because the study looks at averages, it's important to note that Hutcherson isn't saying that all criminals come out of prison primed to become bigger criminals. Lots of people, obviously, come out determined to lead law-abiding lives.

Hutcherson pointed to the role of social networks in all of our lives. In the legal economy, being connected to influential people — via networking — is widely seen as a way to get ahead on the ladder. The same phenomenon appeared to be at work in the illegal economy as well.

February 1, 2013 at 11:48 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e2017c368184e0970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "When Crime Pays: Prison Can Teach Some To Be Better Criminals":

Comments

The deceased have decreased income from crime. One will have to kill the lawyer hierarchy protecting all criminals because they generate so much lawyer income, for services totally worthless to the public. So the lawyer hierarchy is itself history's most powerful and wealthiest criminal syndicate. Going to law school causes an increase in income from crime and treason. The lawyer profession has totally infiltrated the three branches of government and is making 99% of the policy decisions. Once eradicated, violent repeat offenders will no longer be protected, and can be executed.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 2, 2013 12:23:02 AM

I'm reminded of Johnny Depp's line from the movie "Blow" (about George Jung):

"I went to prison with a bachelor's degree in marijuana. I came out with a Master's degree in cocaine."

Posted by: Jay Hurst | Feb 2, 2013 10:25:43 AM

Jay:

That is what prisons (and our Justice System) do BEST!

Posted by: albeed | Feb 2, 2013 5:04:38 PM

albeed stated: "That is what prisons (and our Justice System) do BEST!"

The only thing this article states is the obvious, that prison, like anything else, will give out what you put into it.

Some feral individuals go in and become even better at their "craft" because they that is what they want to do. To imply that the prisons (or justice system) are responsible for that is downright absurd.

It is like using the cheapest metal, tin, rubber, and glass and wondering why the auto manufacturer built you a Yugo instead of a Mercedes.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Feb 2, 2013 6:58:35 PM

TarlsQtr --

Where have you been hiding out?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 3, 2013 12:44:40 PM

hey TarlsQtr! long time no see.

Plus i agree with everything you said.

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 3, 2013 7:18:36 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB