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Selective Incapacitation and Public Policy

Evaluating California's Imprisonment Crisis

Kathleen Auerhahn

Publication Year: 2003

From the 1970s to the new millennium, the prison population in the United States has quadrupled while an unprecedented amount of sentencing reform has taken place, largely intended to protect the public from dangerous criminals. This book details the California experience, including the history and politics of criminal sentencing policy reform, as well as the consequences of this activity to the criminal justice system. Using cutting-edge computer simulation modeling, Kathleen Auerhahn explores the impact that sentencing reforms dating back to the 1970s have had on the composition and structure of the criminal justice system, with specific focus on prison populations. She illustrates how dynamic systems simulation modeling is used to both examine “possible futures” under a variety of sentencing structures and sentencing policy alternatives, including narrowing “strike zones” and the early release of elderly offenders, in order to more effectively target the dangerous criminals these policies promise to remove from society via incarceration.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in New Directions in Crime and Justice Studies


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

A project of this magnitude never represents only the efforts of one person. Along the way, many people helped me in various ways, some of which are evident in these pages, and others, while not necessarily apparent, were nonetheless instrumental, if only through their contribution in the effort to preserve my sanity. I would like to thank the following...

Part I. The Criminal in Society: Penal Response and Rationale

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p. 1

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Chapter 1. Introduction

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pp. 3-16

This work is about criminal punishment. It is about the philosophical rationales that underlay this practice, and the way in which these justifications shape the methods employed in the enterprise of punishing criminal offenders. It is also about the outcomes that result when the theoretical purposes and operational realities of a system of criminal punishment...

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Chapter 2. Criminal Punishment in Civil Society: Purpose and Method

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pp. 17-37

The use of criminal punishment in Western societies has generally been justified as serving one of four purposes: rehabilitation, deterrence, retribution, and incapacitation. At varying points in U.S. history, each of these purposes have been dominant in the construction of the ideology that guides criminal justice policy. In the last century, there have been several major paradigm shifts in the...

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Chapter 3. Criminal Sentencing Policy and Paradigm Change in California

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pp. 39-58

The preceding chapter charted the historical trajectory of paradigm changes in American criminal justice. It was argued that paradigm shifts occur in response to operational or ontological crises in the criminal justice system—in other words, new paradigms rise to dominance when existing paradigms fail to provide satisfactory solutions to designated problems, or when the explanations of...

Part II. Incapacitation and Dangerousness

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p. 59

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Chapter 4. Selective Incapacitation

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pp. 61-72

In the previous chapter, I asserted that recent sentencing innovations in California were reflective of a growing interest in the idea of selective incapacitation. In this chapter, I examine the history of selective incapacitation as an idea, as well as the theoretical, operational, and ethical issues encompassed within it. Particular attention will be given to the 1982 Rand report, Selective Incapacitation, as...

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Chapter 5. Dangerousness

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pp. 73-86

The limitations of the traditional selective incapacitation model detailed in chapter 4 suggest that the retrospective evaluation of such policies may be more beneficial than predictive approaches. Due to the problems inherent in the estimation of crime reduction effects, I contend that the evaluation of selective incapacitation schemes should be based on the success of such policies in terms...

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Chapter 6. Assessing the Level of Dangerousness in the Criminal Justice System

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pp. 87-100

The protection of the public by the incapacitation of dangerous offenders has long been regarded as a legitimate aim of the California criminal justice system. In recent years, sentencing policy in California has reflected a growing interest in this objective, demonstrated most prominently in recent reforms such as Truth in Sentencing and the state’s Three Strikes habitual offender statute. However...

Part III. Evaluating the Past, Choosing the Future

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p. 101

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Chapter 7. Modeling the California Criminal Justice System, Part I: Reproducing and Evaluating the Past

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pp. 103-129

This chapter reports the results of the simulation analysis that reproduces the compositional dynamics of the California criminal justice system during the period 1979-1998. The purpose of this chapter is twofold. The first is to demonstrate the validity of the simulation model in terms of its ability to accurately reproduce historical circumstance. The second goal of this chapter is to retrospectively...

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Chapter 8. Modeling the California Criminal Justice System, Part II: Predictive Evaluation

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pp. 131-152

Chapter 7 reported the results of the retrospective simulation analyses evaluating the efficacy of criminal sentencing reform in California with respect to the objective of incapacitating dangerous offenders. As was noted in those analyses, one of the most far-reaching reforms, namely, the state’s Three Strikes law, has not yet begun to show its effects on the criminal justice system. For this reason...

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Chapter 9. Conclusion: Choosing California’s Future

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pp. 153-158

This work has attempted to explicate the linkages between the goals and consequences of public policy. The analyses have focused on criminal sentencing policy reform in late-twentieth-century California. Using the extremely powerful tool of simulation analysis to model California’s criminal justice system in past and future, I have endeavored to highlight the pernicious unintended...

Technical Appendix A

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pp. 159-165

Technical Appendix B

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pp. 167-169


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pp. 171-186


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pp. 187-214

Subject Index

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pp. 215-219

Author Index

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pp. 221-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780791486412
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791457979
Print-ISBN-10: 0791457974

Page Count: 236
Illustrations: 6 tables, 64 figures
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: SUNY series in New Directions in Crime and Justice Studies
Series Editor Byline: Austin T. Turk See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 56408565
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Selective Incapacitation and Public Policy

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Imprisonment -- Government policy -- California.
  • Criminal justice, Administration of -- California.
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