Incapacitation is a philosophy of
incarceration that argues that some offenders might have to be incarcerated not for what
they have done but to prevent future harm to the community.
Selective incapacitation is provided for under dangerous offender legislation.
The philosophy of incapacitation
depends on the ability of the community to identify those that might re-offend. Some also
argue that incapacitation is unfair as incapacitation is punishment
to people for what they might do, rather than for what they have done.
Incapacitation is considered to be
a subset of specific deterrence. Incapacitation aims
to prevent future crimes not by rehabilitative ideal
but rather by taking away the ability to commit such acts. General deterrence theory focuses on reducing the
probability of deviance in the general population.
The Ethics of Selective
Incapacitation: Observations on the Contemporary Debate
Andrew von Hirsch, Crime & Delinquency, Vol. 30, No. 2, 175-194 (1984)
"Selective Incapacitation" strategies raise the issue of the fairness of
prediction-based sentencing. Some recent advocates of such strategies have argued that
predictive sentencing is just, because the criteria for prediction coincide or overlap
with the criteria for deserved punishment.
This article contends that such
claims are mistaken: that, in fact, the criteria for prediction and for desert differ
significantly in the degree of emphasis that may be placed on the prior criminal history,
and in the type of information about that history which may appropriately be used. The
tension between selective incapacitation and desert cannot be ignored; and that the use of
selective-incapacitation strategies in sentencing entails sacrifices of equity for
Sentencing According to Risk - John Blackmore, Jane Welsh, Crime &
Delinquency, Vol. 29, No. 4, 504-528 (1983)
In October 1982, the Rand Corporation published Selective Incapacitation, a sentencing
proposal based on seven years of research by a team of Rand researchers under the
direction of Peter Greenwood. In his report, Greenwood claims to have developed a
classification scheme that would enable criminal Justice practitioners to determine which
offenders should receive long, "incapacitating" prison sentences and which can
be sentenced to alternative programs or safely released to the community. If implemented
in its purest form, he says, selective incapacitation could result both in a net reduction
of crime in the community and in the number of offenders who would need to be
incarcerated. Since the release of the Rand report, most criminologists agree that
Greenwood's findings are incomplete, methodologically flawed (methodology),
and do not justify his policy proposal. In this article we outline the history, criticism
and impact of selective incapacitation.
Selective Incapacitation? -
STEPHEN D. GOTTFREDSON, DON M. GOTTFREDSON
The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 478, No. 1,
Recent sentencing proposals for the selective incapacitation of criminal offenders have
generated a great deal of enthusiasm and controversy. The concept has been greeted
enthusiastically because it promises simultaneously to decrease the crime rate and to
reduce crowding in the nation's prisons. The controversy stems from two sources: concerns
of science and of ethics. This article describes the selective incapacitation proposal and
the scientific and ethical controversies it has generated.
Are Idle Hands the Devil's Workshop? Incapacitation, Concentration, and Juvenile
Crime - Jacob B.A; Lefgren L.
Source: The American Economic Review, Volume 93, Number 5, 1 December 2003
Abstract: This paper examines the short-term effect of school on juvenile crime. To do so,
we bring together daily measures of criminal activity and detailed school calendar
information from 29 jurisdictions across the country, and utilize the plausibly exogenous
variation generated by teacher in-service days. We find that the level of property crime
committed by juveniles decreases by 14 percent on days when school is in session, but the
level of violent crime increases by 28 percent on such days. Our findings suggest that
both incapacitation and concentration influence juvenile crime.
Deterrence and Incapacitation: An Interrupted Time-Series Analysis of California's
Three Strikes law - Ramirez J.R.; Crano
W.D. - Source: Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Volume 33, Number 1, 1 January 2003.
Abstract: Using uniform crime statistics, this research investigates the impact of
California's three-strikes law on instrumental, violent, minor, and drug-related crimes
over the first 5 years of the law'simplementation. Three-strikes laws are statutes in the
United States which mandate state courts to impose harsher sentences on habitual offenders
who are convicted of three or more serious criminal offenses. Autoregressive integrated
moving average (ARIMA) models reveal little immediate impact of the law,but significant
effects on instrumental crime over time, suggesting an incapacitation effect. After
correcting for autocorrelation distortions, less restrictive multiple regression models
that test simultaneously for immediate and gradual intervention effects disclose immediate
(deterrent) effects on instrumental and minor crimes and arrests, and long-term
(incapacitation) effects on these and violent crimes as well.
The Determinants of Punishment: Deterrence, Incapacitation and Vengeance
Does the economic model of optimal punishment explain the variation in the sentencing of
murderers? As the model predicts, we find that murderers with a high expected probability
of criminal recidivism receive longer sentences.
Sentences are longest in murder types where apprehension rates are low, and where
deterrence elasticities appear to be high.
The Philadelphia Birth Cohort and Selective Incapacitation
THOMAS J. BERNARD, R. RICHARD RITTI
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Vol. 28, No.1, (1991)
The birth cohort data from Wolfgang and colleagues' 1972 study is analyzed to determine
marginal benefits (police reports and serious adjudications that would not have occurred)
and marginal costs (the juvenile incarceration rate that would have resulted, as compared
to present rates) if nine hypothetical incapacitation policies had been in effect at the
Assessing the Impact of Exposure Time and Incapacitation on Longitudinal
Trajectories of Criminal Offending
Alex R. Piquero, Northeastern University, Alfred Blumstein, Carnegie Mellon
University, Robert Brame, University of Maryland, Rudy Haapanen, California
Youth Authority, Edward P. Mulvey, University of Pittsburgh, Daniel S. Nagin,
Carnegie Mellon University, Journal of Adolescent Research, Vol. 16, No. 1, 54-74
The authors examine the potential effect of accounting for exposure time by examining the
arrests of 272 serious offenders who were paroled at age 18 and followed through age 33.
Sex Offender Laws: Can Treatment, Punishment, Incapacitation, and Public Safety be
Reconciled? - Mary Ann Farkas, Amy Stichman - Criminal Justice Review,
Vol. 27, No. 2, 256-283 (2002)
Sex offenders are viewed a unique type of criminal offender, particularly as more
"objectionable,' less treatable, more dangerous, and more likely to recidivate. We
conclude that, even though treatment is an implicit rationale in the laws' provisions,
punishment, incapacitation, and public safety are the ostensive purposes of these special
laws and policies directed toward sex offenders.
The Goals of Corrections: Perspectives from the Line
Misty Kifer, Craig Hemmens, Mary K. Stohr
Criminal Justice Review, Vol. 28, No. 1, 47-69 (2003)
Four different goals of corrections are commonly espoused: retribution,
deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation. Each of these goals has received varied
levels of public and professional support over time. In an effort to assess the level of
professional support for these goals, a survey was administered to staff in three prisons,
two jails, and a jail academy in a rural mountain state. The results indicate that jail
and prison staff are more likely than not to perceive the primary goal of corrections as
Prison Overcrowding: The Law's Dilemma
EDWARD M. KENNEDY - The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social
Science, Vol. 478, No. 1, 113-122
The author focuses on the importance of criminal sentencing policy to prison overcrowding
and advocates comprehensive sentencing reform that emphasizes selective incapacitation of
dangerous offenders as a sensible approach to conserving scarce prison resources. The use
of uniform sentences and selective incapacitation provided for in the new law offers a
constructive approach to the intractable problem of prison overcrowding.
Incapacitation and Just Deserts as Motives for Punishment
PAUL H. ROBINSON, University of Pennsylvania Law School, KEVIN CARLSMITH, Colgate
University, JOHN M. DARLEY, Princeton University - Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 24,
pp. 659-683, 2000
Abstract: What motivates a person's desire to punish actors who commit intentional,
counternormative harms? Two possible answers are a just deserts motive or a desire to
incarcerate the actor so that he cannot be a further danger to society.
Dangerousness and Incapacitation: A Predictive Evaluation of Sentencing Policy
Reform in California - Kathleen Auerhahn - Sponsoring Agency: US Dept
of Justice, National Institute of Justice, United States
This predictive evaluation of sentencing policy reform in California concludes that the
State's "Three Strikes" law will not be effective in incapacitating dangerous
Abstract: Sentencing policies that claim to enhance public safety by selectively
incapacitating dangerous offenders must make clear the characteristics of a dangerous
offender and must ensure that these dangerous offenders are actually the ones targeted for
selective incapacitation. Three alternate scenarios are presented to explore various ways
to achieve greater average dangerousness in the incarcerated population, thus increasing
the incapacitation of dangerous offenders.
On the Usefulness of Controlling Individuals: An Economic Analysis of
Rehabilitation, Incapacitation, and Deterrence
Effects of Judges' Sentencing Decisions on Criminal Careers
Don M. Gottfredson - Sponsoring Agency: US Dept of Justice, National Institute of
Justice, United States
This study determined the degree to which judicial sentencing decisions affected
subsequent criminal careers for 962 felony offenders in Essex County, N.J., who were
variously to confinement and noncustodial programs.
Abstract: The 18 participating judges exercised considerable discretion in their
sentencing decisions. The data collected included judicial perceptions, the judges'
predictions of the offenders' future criminal behavior, the judges' sentencing purposes,
offender backgrounds, execution of sentences, and offenders' arrests and charges during
the 20 years after sentencing. Also measured were the judges' selection of various
sanctions, the validity of subjective and objective predictions of future criminal
behavior (risks), and the offenders' time in the community (free of the incapacitating
effects of jail or prison). Available sentencing choices had little effect, other than
that of incapacitation, on recidivism as measured by new arrests and charges. The findings
offer little support, aside from incapacitation, for increased use of confinement,
emphasis on longer terms, or more acceptance of specific deterrence as a crime-control
Selective incapacitation under dangerous offender