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THE PREDICTIVE VALUE OF CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS: DO AGE AND CRIMINAL HISTORY AFFECT TIME TO REDEMPTION?

Authors


The authors would like to thank the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement and the Hindelang Criminal Justice Research Center for financially supporting the visits that enabled this international collaboration. We also would like to thank seminar participants at the NSCR and the 2008 annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology as well as Robert Brame, Megan Kurlychek, and two anonymous referees for helpful comments. All errors remain our own. Direct correspondence to Shawn D. Bushway, School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany, 135 Western Ave., Albany, NY 12222 (e-mail: sbushway@albany.edu).

Abstract

Criminal record checks are being used increasingly by decision makers to predict future unwanted behaviors. A central question these decision makers face is how much time it takes before offenders can be considered “redeemed” and resemble nonoffenders in terms of the probability of offending. Building on a small literature addressing this topic for youthful, first-time offenders, the current article asks whether this period differs across the age of last conviction and the total number of prior convictions. Using long-term longitudinal data on a Dutch conviction cohort, we find that young novice offenders are redeemed after approximately 10 years of remaining crime free. For older offenders, the redemption period is considerably shorter. Offenders with extensive criminal histories, however, either never resemble their nonconvicted counterparts or only do so after a crime-free period of more than 20 years. Practical and theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.

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