U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Incapacitation and Crime Control: Does a 'Lock'em Up' Strategy Reduce Crime?

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 4 Issue: 4 Dated: (December 1987) Pages: 513-543
C A Visher
Date Published
31 pages
Research on the use of incapacitation strategies to reduce crime has increased rapidly in the last decade. Estimates of the crime reduction potential are numerous and variable, reflecting different assumptions by researchers.
This paper reviews and synthesizes studies of collective and selective incapacitation. Sentencing practices of the 1970's and the early 1980's prevented an estimated 10 to 30 percent of potential crimes through collective incapacitation strategies. Greater use of incarceration, such as through mandatory minimum sentences, would prevent additional crimes, but prison populations would increase substantially. Selective incapacitation strategies target a small group of convicted offenders, those who are predicted to commit serious crimes at high rates for incarceration. These high-rate serious offenders, however, are difficult to identify accurately with information currently available in official criminal history records. Preliminary research, assuming moderate accuracy, suggests that selective incapacitation may prevent some crimes, such as 5 to 10 percent of robberies by adults, but increases in prison populations would result. The future of selective incapacitation is discussed in view of current research and knowledge about serious criminal activity. (Publisher abstract)