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28 J. Res. Crime & Delinquency 3 (1991)

handle is hein.journals/jrcd28 and id is 1 raw text is: 


                                  EDITOR'S COMMENTS


   The public's mood  and official response to it in the past decade have
resulted in many more people being incarcerated in America's prisons for
much  longer periods. At the same time, national and state legislators, gover-
nors, and the president strain to curtail expenditures and minimize tax
increases in the face of a never ending process of building costly prisons.
Thus  jurisdictions are searching for means, acceptable to the public, of
rationing prison space as some are now considering rationing health services.
The  idea of selective incapacitation articulated most prominently by Peter
Greenwood   several years ago, has become increasingly appealing. In brief,
the notion rests on the belief that we should  incarcerate primarily the
relatively small group of individuals - the career criminals - who commit
most of our crimes and avoid imprisoning most other convicted persons, at
least as much as we can feasibly, and instead develop community measures
to deal with them.
   This proposal rests on two key assumptions: First, we can identify such
career criminals with some precision, and second, we can design policies that
will result in isolating those so identified with minimal additional expense -
perhaps even less costly - than at present.
   The  first article in this issue is by Smith, Visher, and Jarjoura, who
examine  the arguments  of those who  suggest that different explanatory
models  are needed to identify the defining characteristics of persons likely
to pursue lengthy and frequent criminal careers as distinct from those who
chose to commit  crime in the first instance. Smith et al. also deal with the
opposite argument that a unitary theory of crime propensity is sufficient to
explain various levels of persistent and harmful criminal behavior. Examin-
ing three prominent theories, they conclude that there may be a benefit to
relate independent variables to specific dimensions of offending, such as
persistence.
   The policy of selective incapacitation may not turn on this debate in the
short term, but it probably will in the longer term. The research design
employed  by Smith et al. and their conclusions are important contributions
to furthering our understanding of these issues.
   Bernard and Ritti, in the second article, move away from the theoretical
to the policy level. Using the well-known 1972 Wolfgang et al. birth cohort
data, they estimate what the results would have been if various incapacitat-


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