Catching the Really Bad Guys: An Assessment of the Efficacy of the U.S. Criminal Justice System

Elsevier, Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 42, July 2014
Barnes J.C.
Purpose: History shows that one of the most important institutions to a society is its criminal justice system. The current study offers an analysis of the criminal justice system's effectiveness in identifying, apprehending, convicting, and punishing high-level/persistent offenders. Methods: Data were drawn from all four waves of the Add Health study. Survey-corrected univariate statistics and logistic regression models were estimated to provide population parameter estimates of the frequency of arrest and punishment for a group of persistent offenders compared to non-persistent offenders. Results: Findings indicated persistent offenders (as identified by self-reported crime) were much more likely to be arrested (63% vs. 26%), accounted for more arrests (x-= 1.71 vs. x- = .53), were more likely to be convicted (39% vs. 11%), were more likely to be placed on probation (38% vs. 12%), and were more likely to be sent to jail (43% vs. 13%) compared to non-persistent offenders. These differences remained when levels of psychopathy, age, race, and sex were controlled in the logistic regression models. Conclusions: These findings suggest the criminal justice system does a good job of identifying and punishing offenders who break the law more frequently. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.