Within critical criminology the term net-widening is used to describe the effects of providing alternatives to incarceration or diversion programs to direct offenders away from court.
While all of these programs developed since the late 1960's were intended to reduce the numbers of offenders in prison or reduce the numbers going to court, it has been found that with net-widening the total numbers of offenders under the control of the state have increased while the population targeted for reduction has not been reduced. In short, the net of social control has been thrown more widely (or some might say the mesh has been made smaller).
Net-Widening - Vagaries
in the Use of a Concept - MAEVE McMAHON, Centre of Criminology,
University of Toronto
Problematic aspects of the concept of net-widening as used in critical analyses of community corrections are documented. Political and analytical rationales for challenging contentions of net-widening are advanced. The critical literature yields a political void. The conclusion of positivists that nothing works in rehabilitating the recalcitrant offender has merely been transmuted by critical criminologists: nothing works in reforming the recalcitrant criminal justice system. Methodological problems in analyses of net-widening are illustrated through a re-examination of several key studies.
Net-Widening of the
Juvenile Justice System in Japan - Minoru Yokoyama
The phenomenon of net-widening was identified by American scholars carrying out research for the evaluation of diversion programs in the American juvenile justice system. The phenomenon, however, can occur independent of diversion programs. This paper emphasizes that, when assessing the net-widening or the net-narrowing of the juvenile justice system, researchers should compare the boundaries of the juvenile justice system with those of other components of the justice system. By identifying the boundaries, one can attempt to explain how the net-widening of the juvenile justice system has occurred in Japan.
Net Widening and Other Unintended Consequences - Mark Ezell
This study seeks to determine whether a juvenile arbitration program can alter the reach of the court in a unique fashion. Using an interrupted time-series design with a comparison group, it shows that the preprogram trend of increasing rates of judicial handling shifted to a decreasing pattern but that the rates of judicial supervision continued to climb.