Posts Tagged ‘incapacitation’

“These altered, lowered expectations manifest themselves in the development
of more cost-effective forms of custody and control and in new technologies
to identify and classify risk. Among them are low frills, no-service
custodial centers; various forms of electronic monitoring systems that impose
a form of custody without walls; and new statistical techniques for assessing
risk and predicting dangerousness. These new forms of control are not
anchored in aspirations to rehabilitate, reintegrate, retrain, provide employment,
or the like. They are justified in more blunt terms: variable detention
depending upon risk assessment.

Perhaps the clearest example of the new penology’s method is the theory of
incapacitation, which has become the predominant utilitarian model of punishment. Incapacitation promises to
reduce the effects of crime in society not by altering either offender or social
context, but by rearranging the distribution of offenders in society. If the
prison can do nothing else, incapacitation theory holds, it can detain offenders
for a time and thus delay their resumption of criminal activity. According
to the theory, if such delays are sustained for enough time and for enough
offenders, significant aggregate effects in crime can take place although individual
destinies are only marginally altered.

These aggregate effects can be further intensified, in some accounts, by a
strategy of selective incapacitation. This approach proposes a sentencing
scheme in which lengths of sentence depend not upon the nature of the criminal
offense or upon an assessment of the character of the offender, but upon
risk profiles. Its objectives are to identify high-risk offenders and to maintain
long-term control over them while investing in shorter terms and less intrusive
control over lower risk offenders. 

Selective incapacitation was first formally articulated as a coherent scheme
for punishing in a report by a research and development organization, but it was quickly embraced and self-consciously promoted as a
justification for punishment by a team of scholars from Harvard University,
who were keenly aware that it constituted a paradigm shift in the underlying
rationale for imposing the criminal sanction.

– Malcolm M. Feeley & Jonathan Simon, “The New Penology: Notes on the Emerging Strategy of Corrections and Its Implications.” 30 Criminology 449 (1992), pp. 457-458.

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