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10 Criminology & Pub. Pol'y 819 (2011)
The Incarceration Ledger: Toward a New Era in Assessing Societal Consequences

handle is hein.journals/crpp10 and id is 829 raw text is: POLICY ESSAY
The incarceration ledger
Toward a new era in assessing societal consequences
Robert J. Sampson
Harvard University
It is not much of an oversimplification to say that criminologists once focused almost
exclusively on the deterrent and incapacitation effects of imprisonment (what I will
call Era 1), whereas in the last decade the tide has turned to a widespread focus on the
negative or criminogenic effects of imprisonment (what I will call Era 2).' The shift in
attention from selective incapacitation to what is now labeled mass incarceration has been
sharp, with a large recent literature asserting that the effects of imprisonment on societal
well-being are corrosive. Era 1 was about crime control, in other words, whereas the current
Era 2 is about crime production.2
Wakefield and Wildeman (2011) are firmly trained in the logic of Era 2. Their
contribution to the debate is to focus on the intergenerational effects ofparents' incarceration
on the individual-level outcomes of their children. Using two longitudinal data sets, the
paper estimates that having a father incarcerated produces harmful effects on children's
behavioral and mental health problems. Thus their innovation is twofold: the paper goes well
beyond crime outcomes and estimates the reach of incarceration into the next generation.
These are important moves givcn the lessons that. life-course criminology has taught us.
Children are the future, after all, so we can ill afford to set aside how our social policies, of
which crime is a central player, influence early development.
Having claimed the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage due to impris-
onment itself, the authors take the further step of using cohort differences in the risk of
Direct correspondence to Robert J. Sampson, Department of Sociology, Harvard University, William James
Hall, 33 Kirkland Street Cambridge, MA 02138 (e-mail: rsampson@wjh.harvard.edu).
1.  Exemplars of each era are Blumstein et al. (1978) and Western (2006), respectively.
2.  I should disclose that I am on record as having argued for the criminogenic effects of imprisonment at
both the individual and macro levels (Sampson, 1995; Sampson and Laub, 1997; Sampson and Loeffler,
DOI:10. 111 1/j.1745-9133.2011.00756.x   © 2011 American Society of Criminology  819
Criminology & Public Policy * Volume 10 * Issue 3

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