Theoretical Issues

There are several theoretical issues that I have been working on.  These seem to fall under the general heading of “the dynamics of offender risk.”  The major theoretical areas that I am interested in can be categorized as the propensity/sanctioning/crime (PSC) relationship, and the developmental/trait/state (DTS) relationship.

  1. The PSC relationship. I am working on a mathematical model of the relationship between criminal propensity, criminal sanction levels, and crime rates. There seems to be a nonlinear relationship between these variables.
  2. The development of criminal propensity. I am interested in determining why the risk of offending changes over the life course. I am examining developmental factors that include changes in strength and mental capacity over the life course.
  3. Criminal propensity as a trait. I am interested in the stable differences in risk of offending between individuals that appear to be similar in nature to a personality trait.
  4. State changes in criminal propensity. I am interested in the fluctuation in risk within the individual due to their local life circumstances, state of mind, and the opportunity for crime. 

No existing theory seems to be adequate to address these separate factors.  A set of dynamic theories is needed that focuses on variation at the propensity and sanctioning levels, developmental, trait, and state factors.  These theories can be combined into a meta-theoretical framework that encompasses the variation at each level.  The issues can be categorized as follows.

Focus  Category  Problem  Treatment
Population Criminal Sanctions Criminal propensity and criminal sanctions seem to have a non-linear effect on crime rates. We need an accurate mathematical model that can be used to calculate the effects of changes in propensity and/or sanction level.
Life-course Development Physical and mental development have differing effects
over the life course.
Use knowledge of developmental patterns to guide treatment efforts.
Long-term Trait Persistent patterns of thinking and reacting to
situations cause rank order differences in criminal propensity.
Work to change traits such as impulsivity, selfishness, and amorality to create long term rank order change
Medium-term State Local life circumstances (criminogenic needs) such as housing, employment, relationships, financing, drug use, overall attitude, and opportunity for crime create medium term fluctuations in risk. Work to address issues related to criminogenic needs to create temporary reductions in risk. Determine which temporary changes promote long term changes.