Study suggests imprisonment does not deter future crime

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A team of researchers from the University of California, the University of Michigan, Kaiser Permanente Colorado Institute for Health Research, the State University of New York and the University of Colorado School of Medicine has found evidence that incarcerating people who commit serious crimes does not prevent them from committing more crimes once they are released. In their paper published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, the researchers describe a study they conducted using statistics from people incarcerated in Michigan prisons for committing violent crimes, and what they found.

Locking people up when they have been convicted of a is an age-old form of punishment. In the short term, it prevents the offender from committing more crime—at least against those outside the prison gates. But jailing people has also been espoused as a means of teaching the offender a lesson—being locked up is supposed to make them think twice about committing future crimes once they are released. But does it? That is what the researchers sought to find out.

To learn more about the probability of engaging in after release from prison, the researchers looked at data for 110,000 people convicted of violence-related felonies during the years 2003 to 2006 in Michigan—some had been sent to prison, others we given probation. The researchers followed the records through the year 2015 looking for examples of arrests or incarcerations.

The researchers report that they saw a slight decrease in crime for those sent to prison compared to those who received probation, but only for the time they were in prison. After they were released, they were found to be just as likely to engage in crime as those who had been given probationary sentences. The data indicates that serving time in prison did not serve as a deterrent for those convicted of a crime. The researchers suggest imprisonment is an ineffective deterrent, and because of that, policymakers ought to take at a closer look at its use. Putting people in prison, they note, is a lot more expensive than probation.


Explore further

Parole violations are driving prison's revolving door

More information: David J. Harding et al. A natural experiment study of the effects of imprisonment on violence in the community, Nature Human Behaviour (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41562-019-0604-8
Journal information: Nature Human Behaviour

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Citation: Study suggests imprisonment does not deter future crime (2019, May 14) retrieved 19 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-05-imprisonment-deter-future-crime.html
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May 14, 2019
Of course, it doesn't deter future crime. The whole system is designed to increase profits which means they need repeat offenders. They scrapped programs that encouraged skills that would provide jobs post-release and instead use many prisoners as slave labor. Prisons no longer reform people and instead do their best to create lifetime criminals by removing options for gainful employment. For-profit prisons are the problem.

May 14, 2019
Prisons are not intended to reform people, they are for punishment for committing crime.

May 14, 2019
A good argument for capital punishment.

May 14, 2019
Quote "It is not the harshness of the punishment but rather the certainty of getting caught the deters crime the most."
Whether we like it or not all of us are slowly losing our privacy. That loss of privacy makes it harder for criminals to hide behind anonymity Which means criminals are more likely to be caught. When there comes a time when there is no privacy, crime will almost disappear and supercomputers will reveal the identity of perpetrators of past crimes.
I repeat "Whether we like it or not all of us are slowly losing our privacy.".

May 14, 2019
The best suggestion I've seen is a "citizens' privacy board" that rules on police requests for public data, like liquor store cameras and public cameras for ATMs and to catch speeders and red light runners. If we don't control it, it will control us.

May 14, 2019
The headline is wrong: confinement reduces crime, release is the problem.

The study is absurd: it found that incarceration does not decrease likelihood of recidivism, so the conclusion is convicts not be jailed at all. WTF?

May 14, 2019
Prisons are not intended to reform people, they are for punishment for committing crime.


No wonder America with it's 2.4 million gulag population is such a spectacular failure.

May 14, 2019
No wonder America with it's 2.4 million gulag population is such a spectacular failure.


Prisons might be a failure but the country is doing great.

Yep, a failure where its citizens live better than 93% of the rest of the world. I just wish my stock portfolio would be such a failure.

.

May 14, 2019
The article is poorly written, or, at best, not clearly written.

There are several theories supporting the "right" of a society to act against an individual via the criminal justice system, among them are deterrence, rehabilitation, and retribution (punishment in and of itself - vengenace, if you will).

From the abstract of the paper:

"One of the goals of imprisonment is to reduce violence1. Although imprisonment has risen dramatically since the 1970s, its effects on future violent crime are poorly understood2. This study's objective was to examine the effect of imprisonment on violent crime in the community among individuals on the policy margin between prison and probation sentences. .... These results suggest that for individuals on the current policy margin between prison and probation, imprisonment is an ineffective long-term intervention for violence prevention, as it has, on balance, no rehabilitative or deterrent effects after release."

[cont'd]

May 14, 2019
Note that the article:

1. is narrowly focussed only on the deterrance theory for incarceration; and

2. only with regard to those individuals where a judge is deciding in the first instance on probation versus prison (the margin); and

3. concludes that perhaps the dividing line between prison/probation is not effective in deterring future violence.

Apparently there is a comment made in the article, which I haven't read, noting the comparative financial burdens of probation versus imprisonment. This comment is also narrowly focussed. While true, it, of course, ignores the societal/financial costs of continued violence while a person is on probation and secondary societal/financial costs associated with imprisonment (effects on families, on children, welfare costs, daycare costs, foster care, etc., etc., etc.).

Not an easy thing for a legislator to balance in crafting legislation.


May 14, 2019
@rderkis

Yep, a failure where its citizens live better than 93% of the rest of the world.


But doesn't that very fact make you wonder what it is about US society that makes it incumbent to have the highest incarceration rate per capita in the world? Shouldn't it instead have one of the lowest incarceration rates per capita if all was really and truly well with US society?

mqr
May 14, 2019
The USA is a disaster. A country where suicide is a top cause of death, where children suicide is amongst the highest in the world, where a parent is on constant anxiety waiting for the "active shooter news", where there are epidemics of STD.... only a psychopath would say that such a place is better than the rest of the planet. More money, yes. Better? 20 years ago murder suicide was rather weird in the USA, today it happens multiple times a day.

The USA has known this for a long time.... they know how crime is handled in less cruel societies, but the bible says "an eye for an eye".

It is mainly to make money from poor people and taxes, a way in which the super rich is moving more money into their bank account. It helps too to keep minorities poor, which is a need for the average American people. Newsweek just published a paper on how the investors in the prison system want the US government to stop protesters against prisons because it is bad for the prison industry.

May 14, 2019
all was really and truly well with US society?
US society is not and has not been culturally monolithic for a very long time. Once a soup of cultures, it is now a platter of crudités, some more crude than others and totally indigestible.

May 14, 2019
Just keeping the criminals away from the law-abiding works for me.

May 14, 2019
>...about US society that makes it incumbent to have the highest
>incarceration rate per capita in the world?

All is not well with US society. We are as fractured as we have been since the Civil War, but because we are geographically mixed and economically interdependent, we won't have another civil war any time soon. However, since we're still running on fumes from the 20th century, we are doing quite well economically. And violent crime is down overall if you look across several decades worth of statistics--partly because of aggressive incarceration.

As far as crime/punishment, we don't deal with criminals in an "eye for an eye" fashion. We simply recognize that we prefer to keep the innocent safer, at the expense of the criminals, rather than the other way around. And we recognize that our criminals are not like those in Sweden or other European utopias. They are tougher. Other countries' solutions won't scale up or work here.

May 14, 2019
Just keeping the criminals away from the law-abiding works for me.


.....that's what prisons are for, they are not a reform system.

May 14, 2019
I had rather my children and myself (as middle income people) live in this terrible crime ridden society then anywhere else. :-) Not because of patriotism but because, I repeat we live better than 93% of the rest of the world.
As far as crime, we are at the end of the crime era. We will soon lose all our privacy, at which point crime will be ALMOST a thing of the past.

May 14, 2019
This study acts like it's the only study ever done on the subject, lol.

May 14, 2019
Ophelia has it spot on mostly. Couple additions:

Privatized prisons lack legitimacy and thus provide less deterrence (not to mention rehabilitation).

Incapacitation and retribution are meted out by prison sentences, whether or not there is deterrence.

Probation IS cheaper than prison, but only by about half, believe it or not. 70K vice 30K when you factor in all the bureaucracy, facilities and overhead that exists in both systems regardless of residency. Given that, there is an argument that prison is a better bargain for society.

May 14, 2019
Treatment would be better; it would cost as much as incarceration, most likely, but the outcomes would be better. For some it would make no difference; but for many, it would make all the difference. Punishing people just gives them PTSD and makes them resentful. Giving them another choice brings them into society and stops the violent crime. Incarceration and other punishments don't.

The real question is how many of them have PTSD from earlier incidents like not having a father because he was incarcerated.

Punishment for PTSD is self-perpetuating. We can either break this vicious cycle or tolerate killings because of it.

HTK
May 14, 2019
Of course it may not deter future crimes, but it SURE DOES KEEP the none criminals SAFE from re-offending criminals who are not locked up! Serial killers for one. With prisons becoming a hotel, it's no wonder aswell!

May 14, 2019
If you're satisfied with that, then why do your ilk breathlessly tell the reporters how bad it is?

If all you want is to keep them from hurting you for 10 years, why complain about what happens after the 10 years? Suck it up. You made it. Now eat it.

May 14, 2019
And now today's diatribe upon the social and psychological sciences for publishing 2- and 3-sigma results.

As a result no one trusts sociology, economics, or psychology and psychiatry. These sciences are in their infancy and trying to measure up to the physical sciences. They fall far short, but that's not an excuse to stop trying.

The old lightbulb joke tells hard on this.

How many psychologists and psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

Only one, but it takes a long time, costs a lot of money, and the light bulb has to really want to change.

May 15, 2019
A LOT(not all) of crime has to do with a chemical imbalance in the brain. They will soon be able to fix that genetically. At which point a education(so they can work) will take care of recidivism

May 15, 2019
I have no idea what "chemical imbalance in the brain" even means. The human brain is full of chemicals, 99% of which we don't even know exist much less have any idea what they do.

Evidence suggests that PTSD has more to do with crime than any other factor. In other words, being preyed upon by criminals is the best predictor for future criminality.

Looks like a vicious circle to me. I can't see any punishment regime but death for parking tickets that even has a hope of affecting this. And I'm not in favor of death for parking tickets.

May 15, 2019
Imprisonment isn't to "fix" people, it's to get them out of society. 3 felonies should mean life without parole.

May 15, 2019
I have no idea what "chemical imbalance in the brain" even means. The human brain is full of chemicals, 99% of which we don't even know exist much less have any idea what they do.


Of course you don't and neither do I. Nor does anyone else, that is why I said in the future. Eventually they will know what each and every molecule does and how to control that precise mixture genetically.
I belive at this point they think traumatic events can change the brains composition, leading to criminal tendencies. Now what if we could reverse those changes chemically and genetically. Then ether get rid of the memory or perhaps make changes that cause the person in question to be more resilient to those memories.
We will soon put a end to mental illness, even the slight cases.

May 15, 2019
Gonna be one damn long time. Ain't no "soon" about it.

May 15, 2019
Gonna be one damn long time. Ain't no "soon" about it.


Soon is a relative word, it can't be argued against. In comparison to how long life has existed 1,000 years is soon.
But when I say soon I mean within decades.
First we will master quantum computers, then we will enhance our intelligence a small amount genetically. That enhancement will quickly lead to a cascade of enhancements to our intelligence.
Once we become smart enough nothing will be beyond us including mastering mental illness.
This will all happen in your lifetime and it will happen to you personally. Now I am 72 and in bad health but however unlikely it is , it could happen in my lifetime. :-) Which of course will mean a end to all diseases and a end to aging.

May 15, 2019
Not gonna happen before we die. Not saying you're wrong about finally figuring it out, but not in our lifetime.

May 15, 2019
Da Schneib, there are at least 3 clinical trials in humans using genetic engineering going on NOW. They are NOW offering genetic engineering for pet dogs. A dog's drug/therapy only takes 1 year for FDA approval, so research on dogs is surging forward. Much of that dog research will be applicable with modifications to humans. NOW you can even buy cheap genetic engineering kits on ebay for your own personal experiments. The two little girls in China who had their genes changed so they can resist AIDS also got a boost in their IQ.

May 15, 2019
1. Committed tribalists do not consider crimes against outsiders crimes. Rather, they are a source of pride and status.
2. Psychopaths, being effectively a tribe of one, hold the same view.
3. Removing these people from the general populace for any period of time weakens tribes on the outside and reduces their effectiveness. Divide and conquer.

It also keeps them from reproducing. And it leaves their wives and girlfriends free to shop around and be unfaithful, further disrupting tribal cohesion.

Tribalism is not a malady. It is the natural state of the human social animal. You may be able to breed it out of the species by systematically removing the most committed tribalists and sequestering them or by sending them off to war. Traditional Germanic tribalism was entirely shattered by the world wars, the deaths of millions, and the firebombing of traditional cultural centers such as Dresden, Hamburg, and Berlin.
Cont>

May 15, 2019
Wars were essential in reducing tribal divisions among new US immigrants and establishing the nationalist (tribal) identity. Before the civil war the country was referred to as 'these United states'. Afterward it became 'THE united states'. And again, the southern tribal identity was quickly and thoroughly broken by the deaths of 1/3 the adult male population and the razing of most cultural centers.

Ww2 was also a great success in this respect. Ethnicities from all over the country were thrown together in military units and given a dastardly enemy to fight.

It may be argued that without common enemies to fight, tribal divisions are inevitable, and the intertribal conflict and crime that results inevitable.
Cont>

May 15, 2019
Reagan understood tribalism very well.

"Perhaps we need some outside universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world."

-And of course 2D pinhead political pundits misinterpreted it as a partisan cheap shot.

"Ronald Reagan, wishing an alien invasion on Earth because of the kumbaya effect it would have on relations among nations," said Rachel Maddow on her show Monday night. "One of the truly weirdest things he ever said in public."

-Reagan was rightly suggesting that common enemies are essential in establishing a greater tribal identity. A desperate multinational asteroid deflection project would work just as well as a skrull invasion.
Cont>

May 15, 2019
Tribalism itself is however the ultimate enemy. Crime, bigotry, and social injustice cannot be eliminated until the tribalist compulsion is finally bred out of the species. But the tendency can be reduced first and foremost by eliminating overpopulation. Conflict over resources is what caused humanity to congeal into tribes in the first place.

"May 15, 2019, 2:56 AM ET
By Linda Carroll
"The number of babies born in the U.S. in 2018 fell to the lowest level in 32 years, according to a government report released Wednesday.

"The numbers are part of a decadeslong trend toward fewer and fewer babies being born each year — which means we're getting further away from the possibility of having enough children to replace ourselves, according to the report from the CDC."

-We dont need to replace ourselves. We need to drastically reduce numbers worldwide if there will be a future for civilization on this planet.

May 16, 2019
The USA is a disaster.


Things are better than ever before in human history. There is still crime and corruption, but it's less than ever before in history. Better for the entire world, not just USA.

You're clearly the disaster.

May 16, 2019
You're clearly the disaster.


You are right, one of the things that hurt all of us most is fake news. That is exactly what is and has pretty much always been happening when the older generation thinks things are getting worse when the facts say otherwise.

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