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Stakes and Risks in the Prediction of Violent Criminal Behavior

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Retributive and utilitarian goals for criminal justice decisions are in conflict. In part, this is because the retributive aim rejects prediction, while all utilitarian aims require it. In the context of this debate, we review research concerning the prediction of violence, and conclude that because such predictions are of low accuracy, they are only modestly useful for public policy formulation or for individual decision-making. Because we believe prediction, and utilitarian goals, to be important, this paper focuses on two issues that have potential for increasing the accuracy with which predictions may be made. One is the measurement of the seriousness of crime and ways to improve it. Second, we introduce the concept of societal stakes and suggest that this must be assessed as well. Finally, we propose a model that may be useful for lessening the conflict between retributive and utilitarian perspectives.

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey. 2: Department of Criminal Justice, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Publication date: January 1, 1988

More about this publication?
  • Violence and Victims discusses theory, research, policy, and clinical practice in the area of interpersonal violence and victimization across such disciplines as psychology, sociology, criminology, law, medicine, nursing, psychiatry, and social work.

    The journal's 2014 Impact Factor is 0.858.
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