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August 31, 2014

"Rational Criminal Addictions"

The title of this post is the title of this intriguing paper now available on SSRN and authored by Manuel Utset. Here is the abstract:

This article argues that repeated criminal misconduct, at least in some areas, has the characteristics of a habit or addiction.  Curiosity or a transient attraction can lead an offender to commit her first crime.  This first infraction will give her a sense of how much she enjoyed it, and whether she has the talent, and stomach, to continue down a path of repeated misconduct.  If the feedback is sufficiently positive, the offender may commit a second crime, and possibly a third.

At some point, the offender will find herself with the opportunity to commit yet another crime, and realize that the immediate disutility of stopping, of going back into a life as a law-abiding citizen, is too great: she may find that the immediate disutility of foregoing a criminal opportunity is too high.  Once the habit takes hold, the offender may continue to commit crimes, even if doing so leads her to suffer large aggregate negative internalities. An offender is thus “addicted to criminal misconduct” if her previous history of misconduct increases the marginal utility of committing a crime in the current period by a sufficient amount; that is, if the immediate disutility from stopping has reached a cut-off point, such that she violates the law notwithstanding the fact that but-for the addiction she would have obeyed the law.

The addicted criminal trades off the heightened immediate disutility from obeying the law against the reduction in total utility due to the negative internalities — including expected sanctions.  After setting forth the rational criminal addiction theory, the article develops a number of legal implications that follow from the theory.

August 31, 2014 at 01:25 PM | Permalink


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It is not addiction to decide to make $1000 a day with a low risk, versus $100 with hard work and harassment. So there are 20 million FBI index felonies (not including regulatory or drug crimes), and 2 million prosecutions. The odds of prosecution are so low, that it makes economic sense to return to a life of crime upon release. Combine that with the features of antisocial personality disorder, fearlessness, selfishness, and a need for sensation, plus possible impulsivity and intoxication, plus the lack of morality not taught by the father missing from the family, plus apparently lead levels, and you have a compelling mixture predicting a return to crime.

So when you convict a person of a violent crime, it has to stand in for 10 other violent crimes by the same person. That is why incapacitation is the sole mature goal of the criminal law, and the death penalty is the only guaranteed form of incapacitation.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 31, 2014 4:08:17 PM

The lawyer places massive tort liability and regulatory obstacles before any employer willing to hire any ex-offender, then complains about their high unemployment rate, or their high recidivism rates. Why does the lawyer want a high recidivism rate? Why does the lawyer allow 90% of major crimes to go unanswered? Why does the lawyer protect the criminal from public self help, that is the only effective way to end crime? To generate a few lousy government make work jobs for worthless tax sucking parasites, slow shuffling, coffee slurping, moving and responding to threats at the speed of people walking at the bottom of a pool filled with molasses, obstructing progress, enabling and empowering the enemies of our nation.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 1, 2014 4:23:13 AM

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