Matt DeLisi Discusses Career Criminals

View Segments Segment :

  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Embed
  • Help
  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Embed
  • Help
Successfully saved clip
Find all your clips in My Lists
Failed to save clip
  • Transcript
  • Transcript

    Auto-Scroll: ONOFF 
    • 00:16

      MATT DELISI: Career criminals are the bad guys.And what I mean by that is researchersfound that there is a very small subgroup of criminal offenderswho are about 5% of the population,but they're responsible for half of the crime in a population.And moreover, they're responsible for anywherefrom 60% to 90% of the most serious forms of crime.

    • 00:39

      MATT DELISI [continued]: So they're the primary interest of the justice system,and then also, research community.I've always been interested in criminal justice.And prior to and during graduate school,I worked as a pretrial services officer at a jail.And what that job entailed was interviewing arrestees

    • 01:01

      MATT DELISI [continued]: and then setting bond on them for jail release.Most of the offenders that I interviewedwere very, very boring, frankly.They were in for traffic violations and alcoholviolations or missing court.But I also found that there was a numberof offenders who were in for the more serious types of crimes.And I got to go through their criminal histories

    • 01:22

      MATT DELISI [continued]: and was sort of shocked by how severe some of them were.And then, over time, one day it dawned on me, because I'mso interested in these more severe pathological offenders,they'd be a great source for a dissertation.And so after that point, I realizedwhen they got arrested, rather thansort of viewing it as a negative thing,I view it as an opportunity to talk with them

    • 01:43

      MATT DELISI [continued]: and gather information.And it was really from those experiencesthat I sort of got-- there's some new things thatare happening in the real world of criminal justicethat aren't there in criminology.And that's really what I've been doing since.

    • 02:03

      MATT DELISI [continued]: The obstacles in dealing with career criminalsis that the criminal justice system,although it has a reputation for being very, veryharsh and punitive, it's, in fact, very, very lenientmost of the time.And what I mean by that is usuallywhen you commit criminal behavior, you get away with it.You're not arrested.And if you're a high-rate serious offender whocommits hundreds of crimes a year,

    • 02:25

      MATT DELISI [continued]: you might get arrested 10 times in a year.But that's really only a fractionof what you've been doing.After arrest, the prosecution processis another sort of selective process.So many times when you're arrested,for a variety of reasons, the prosecutordoesn't prosecute you.The charges are dismissed or there'ssome reduction of charges or they just

    • 02:45

      MATT DELISI [continued]: reject filing of charges.So career criminals are able to accumulate these massive arresthistories, in large part, because the justicesystem filters them out just like it does other offenders.Even when it does prosecute and convict serious offendersand sends them to prison, almost alwaysthey're going to be released.

    • 03:05

      MATT DELISI [continued]: And usually they're going to be releasedbefore their actual sentence.So there's a lot of leniency and slackin the criminal justice system in terms of howit operates with all offenders.And unfortunately, that also includes these career types.And so they are able to go through their offending historyfor decades and amass what seems like an impossible numberof arrests and convictions.

    • 03:26

      MATT DELISI [continued]: But they really can do it because that'sthe way the system operates.Technology, I would say, hasn't changedhow we deal with career criminals very much.The police have always known that there'sa lot of diversity or heterogeneity

    • 03:47

      MATT DELISI [continued]: in the offending population.They know that most people, they're never going to contact.The large group who are contact, it'sgoing to be one offense usually.And they also know that there's this smaller group that they'regoing to repeatedly arrest.And so as technology has developed,we're probably better able to identify themand probably better able to coordinate

    • 04:09

      MATT DELISI [continued]: various parts of the justice systemso that they're aware when they're released.So an example is severe offenders,when they're released from prisonand they're on parole supervision,there's often coordination between the parole departmentand local police departments, just to notify police,person X is being released.And so you might want to be watching for himand be ready for him because he's coming.

    • 04:41

      MATT DELISI [continued]: The fascinating thing about the history of career criminalsis that in the large degree things have never changed.And what I mean by that is I had my experiencesabout 15 years ago and continue to do some workin the criminal justice system.But I have read offenders' life historiesgoing back to the 1940s.And it's the same sort of story even

    • 05:03

      MATT DELISI [continued]: though the people have changed.And so usually, they have these extensive arrest historiesin adulthood, in and out of jail, in and out of prison,and they're seemingly unchanged in their behavior.If you get more information, you findthat they were often chronic and very severejuvenile delinquents.They often dropped out of school or were expelled.And if you continue back even into childhood,

    • 05:25

      MATT DELISI [continued]: they had rather shockingly severe behaviors very earlyin life.I've read historical accounts going back multiple centuriesand it's almost the identical life history,where they'll talk to neighbors, family members, policeofficers, other judicial personnel,and they'll document that a single offender has

    • 05:46

      MATT DELISI [continued]: been severe and pathological in a sense.And that, especially in retrospect,it was completely obvious.So that part is fascinating to me,in that they seem to be this archetype of personbehaviorally.

    • 06:08

      MATT DELISI [continued]: The seeming predictability or the stabilityof their antisocial behavior over timeis something that we know very well.But the other challenge with career criminalsis because they're very impulsive and unpredictable,it's difficult to predict, in terms of a scientific way,what they're going to do next.And so many offenders who are very severe young in age,

    • 06:31

      MATT DELISI [continued]: nevertheless, will sort of drop out of crime or at leastdecline or desist from the high offendingthat they were doing earlier.So one of the problems has been that when we identify someonewe think is a career criminal perhaps early in life,they don't always turn out to be one.And so there's concern that we don'twant to over identify or over respond to them early

    • 06:52

      MATT DELISI [continued]: when there might really be a false positive.The flip side of that, of course--and it is what generally happens when you watch the news-- isyou'll have an offender who is 50 years of ageor older who has a decade's long criminal historyand seems to have been given opportunityafter opportunity to offend.And the question is often raised by the public--and it's a good question-- is why

    • 07:13

      MATT DELISI [continued]: weren't they locked up earlier?And why weren't they locked up for a longer period of time?And it really relates, again, to their behaviors areso impulsive and they're not normal in the sense of peoplewho hold regular jobs and have family responsibilities.Because they sort of abdicate all their responsibilitiesin all life domains, they're difficult to track

    • 07:34

      MATT DELISI [continued]: and difficult to predict.The study of career criminals has changed quite a bitin the last few years.For many years it was really atheoretical.And what I mean by that, it dealt primarilywith trying to find statistically

    • 07:55

      MATT DELISI [continued]: this very small group and then describingeverything about them.In more recent years, studies have incorporated theoriesthat use usually some global construct that theythink causes behavior and causes antisocial behaviorand then causes the behavior of these career criminals.So one example, it's a very simple one,

    • 08:15

      MATT DELISI [continued]: would be self-control.So it's believed self-control theoriststhat most people have pretty adequate self-controland are able to comply with life's responsibilities.You have some people who have relatively lower self-controland that can get them into trouble in non-clinical ways.And what I mean by that is they could eat too much,they could spend money too foolishly,

    • 08:38

      MATT DELISI [continued]: they could do things on impulse, and that gets theminto trouble.People who are sort of criminallylow in their self-control are thosewho are extraordinarily impulsiveand who don't really modify their emotions cognitively.And what I mean by that is something happens to him,they're very reactive.

    • 08:58

      MATT DELISI [continued]: They have hot tempers.They don't think about the consequences of their behavior.They just simply act.So in the recent years, scholars have been using constructslike self-control or self-regulation,neuropsychological issues, to try and understandbetter what are those sort of physiological and psychologicalconstructs that give rise to these lifelong criminal

    • 09:20

      MATT DELISI [continued]: behavior?The research directions right now are highly statisticalbut they're also very substantive.And what I mean by that is a number of methodologieshave been developed that are able to find

    • 09:41

      MATT DELISI [continued]: unobserved or latent groupings within data.And so what do I mean by that?Earlier on, we were talking about career criminals.They are a small group and they'reresponsible for most of the antisocialbehavior in a population.But if you were to look at the population overall, whatyou would find is that most people aren't criminal at all.They're never arrested and they, frankly, never really engage

    • 10:03

      MATT DELISI [continued]: in problem behaviors.There are also people who do get arrested,but usually it's for relatively mundane or low level kindsof offenses, such as traffic violations, alcohol violations,driving while intoxicated.And then, of course, you have these career criminalswho engage in versatile types of behaviors-- violent crimes,property crimes, drug crimes, etc.

    • 10:25

      MATT DELISI [continued]: Well, some of these new technologiesare able to find these latent subgroups within data.And so some studies that I've donewith my colleagues, Michael Vaughan and others,is to use these methods to find these latent groups.And we've been finding this severe 5%--is what we've been calling them.This severe 5% is equivalent of career criminals.

    • 10:47

      MATT DELISI [continued]: And then, after you find these groups statistically,you can use other measures in the data to sort of validatethese latent groups.And what we find and what others have found using datafrom all over the world is that almost always thereis this finding of this very small subgroup.And on essentially every measure,they're worse than everyone else.

    • 11:08

      MATT DELISI [continued]: So if the measures are of anti-social behavior, numberof arrest, number of imprisonments,number of violent arrest, etc, they alwayshave significantly more.And if the independent variable arethe measure is a positive thing, such as, income or employmentstatus or family relations, this severe groupis negatively associated with it.

    • 11:30

      MATT DELISI [continued]: And so it's another way to use big data or epidemiologicalkinds of samples to reinforce this notionof this small subgroup.The other thing that's nice about some of this researchis it wasn't developed for criminologyor by criminologists.Often, they were developed for medical reasonsor public health research.But they include a number of measures

    • 11:52

      MATT DELISI [continued]: of criminal behavior, drug behavior, etc.,that are directly relevant to criminology.And so it's been exciting to sort of gobe outside criminology and criminal justice to,nevertheless, study really the same group of people.One of my other areas of interestis biosocial criminology.And what that is is really just a research paradigm

    • 12:13

      MATT DELISI [continued]: that is embracing of all types of constructs or measuresor theories, whether they're from sociology, psychology,the neurosciences, biology, genetics.And although that was controversial to criminologyeven 10 years ago, it's becoming less soand it's becoming more and more salient to the field.And so, for me, it was always just common sense

    • 12:35

      MATT DELISI [continued]: that there's lots of reasons why peopledevelop into becoming chronic offenders or career criminals.Their social background is bad.Their psychological make up is problematic.And if that's true, it's likely that there'sneurological and genetic issues as well.And so another huge advance in research,and I guess technology, is that there are now data sets that

    • 12:56

      MATT DELISI [continued]: have measured genes.And you can use those measured genesand pair them with varies measured environmentsto see how does nature and nurtureinteract to produce certain types of behavioral outcomes.And so that's been another very exciting development.When you study or read about career criminals,you're, frankly, not reading a ton in criminology itself.

    • 13:18

      MATT DELISI [continued]: A lot of the research is being donein psychology and psychiatry and pediatrics and geneticsand other fields.So you really do have to become, by necessity, interdisciplinaryif you want to study this topic.

    • 13:39

      MATT DELISI [continued]: The study that probably launched this study of career criminalswas done in 1972.And it was done by Marvin Wolfgang and his colleagues.And what they did is they studied a birthcohort of about nearly 10,000 boys bornin Philadelphia in 1945.And they followed them from approximately age 10until age 18.

    • 14:00

      MATT DELISI [continued]: And what they found was-- they were the first reallyto document it empirically-- was that about 65% of the samplewas never arrested or contacted by police.About 35% of it was.Of that 35%, most of them were for one time.And then they were contacted again.And then they found that 6% of the boys--

    • 14:23

      MATT DELISI [continued]: which is close to 5%-- had five or more police contacts.And so it was the Wolfgang study.And this book was called "Delinquencyin a Birth Cohort."They sort of established that five or more police contactsis the marker or the criterion for career criminality.They called it habitual or chronic offending.They were also the first to document

    • 14:43

      MATT DELISI [continued]: that that same group accounted for more than halfof the delinquency in the total sample or cohort and moreof the serious crimes like murder, rape, armed robbery,and aggravated assault.So really, we all kind of owe a debt of gratitudeto Wolfgang and his colleagues who documented that.There were, of course, other studies done going back early

    • 15:04

      MATT DELISI [continued]: into the 20th Century and into the 19th Century thatdocumented how severe these behaviors couldbe among this group.But they didn't do it in a large kind of comparative sensewhere they were showing what is the overall sizeof the population or the criminal population.And then, what proportion of thatis really this career criminals group?So it's only been about 43 years that this has

    • 15:25

      MATT DELISI [continued]: been a coherent area of study.And I would give Wolfgang the credit for starting it.I think theory is very important.In my own work, it's one thing to observe an interviewcriminal offenders who are pathological

    • 15:45

      MATT DELISI [continued]: in their offending.But I think it's more insightful to understand whereit's coming from theoretically.And the other issue with that is usually--and I would say, perhaps, almost always--there is some neuropsychological or self-regulation deficitfound in career criminals.And the good thing about those isthat they're stable over time and they're aeratable.

    • 16:07

      MATT DELISI [continued]: And what I mean by that is they'relargely genetic in origin.So that means that we can really identify children earlywho have severe self-regulation deficits.And those are the children who areat most risk for developing into becoming lifelong offenders.And if we can identify them very early,then we can provide interventions at the school

    • 16:28

      MATT DELISI [continued]: level, at the family level, at the community level,to try and help steer them away from that sort of careercriminal pathway that they might be on and towards morepro-social kinds of outcomes.But I want to give you just one example in terms of howthis might look in practice.Nationwide, about 10% of children who are in preschool

    • 16:49

      MATT DELISI [continued]: are expelled from preschool because of their behavior.And there's been studies done of clinic-referred children--these are four- and five-year-olds--who are already engaging in behaviorsuch as arson, robbery, and rape or sexual abuse.And so I give this example because itshows you the extremity of some of their behaviors

    • 17:10

      MATT DELISI [continued]: and how precocious they are in terms of their violenceand their anti-social conduct.Those are the youth who we're talking about.We're not talking about ornery childrenor rambunctious children or boys whomaybe have a little bit of low-self regulation.We're talking about who are effectivelypreschool criminals.And their behavior is so extraordinarily different

    • 17:31

      MATT DELISI [continued]: from peers, we know pretty confidently that theseare the youth who are likely to become severe delinquentsand adult career criminals.So I think the theory part of it has reallyhelped to understand that we're nottrying to brutishly label them as career criminalswhen they're four or five.But what we are doing is identifyingthese severe deficits they have and trying to intervene

    • 17:53

      MATT DELISI [continued]: so that we can reduce them.Sure.It wasn't necessarily created to stop career criminals, per se,but one of the most famous interventionsis the Nurse Family Partnership Studies by David Olds.

    • 18:14

      MATT DELISI [continued]: And what Olds and his colleagues didis selected a cohort of very at-risk girlswho were pregnant.This was in the late '70s in upstate New York.And what they did-- these were girls who were mostly indigent.They were single.They were young.Their children would be at risk for delinquency and often very

    • 18:35

      MATT DELISI [continued]: severe delinquency.And so Olds created a program wherenurses would visit with these pregnant girls prenatallyand then following up to two yearsafter the birth of their child.And they would provide what seemslike a very rudimentary education--information about prenatal vitamins,information about nutrition, information about how

    • 18:58

      MATT DELISI [continued]: to childproof a home, etc.And then, after the child was born,they would provide information about good parenting practices.What Olds has found is that-- and they randomlyassigned these girls to these various experimental groups.So some receive just standard care.Others receive sort of gold standard care.And then, other types of groups.

    • 19:18

      MATT DELISI [continued]: They found pretty clearly that girlswho had visits from nurses had children who turned outmuch better behaviorally.And the girls themselves turned out much better behaviorallythan the controls who didn't receive any intervention.And so what that study really helped to dowas show that for relatively little investment--

    • 19:38

      MATT DELISI [continued]: the program is very inexpensive-- youcan effectively steer not only pregnant girls, teenage girls,but their children away from not only a life of delinquencybut also public assistance and public dependenceand other sort of social problems.They've replicated that study in all African-American sampleand also in a Hispanic sample.

    • 19:59

      MATT DELISI [continued]: And they're finding pretty much the same thing.For this to work, Olds won the Stockholm prizein criminology, which is effectivelythe Nobel Prize in criminology.And that study largely spawned this whole worldof intervention or prevention, whereresearchers say, you know what?We really do know who the kids who are most at risk

    • 20:20

      MATT DELISI [continued]: to develop into being a lifelong offender.And if we can intervene very early before those behaviorsbecome habituated, we might effectivelybe able to save them.A lot of people have influenced me and a lot of fields

    • 20:41

      MATT DELISI [continued]: have influenced me.And what I mean by that is criminology sortof owned career criminals research.But other areas of interest that I had-- one of themis psychopathy with in psychology.And so I've done a number of studies askingthe question are career criminalsand psychopaths really the same person or group?

    • 21:01

      MATT DELISI [continued]: And they largely are.I also have interest in studying sortof more sensational types of offenders, especiallyhomicide offenders.And you can see a lot of convergencebetween homicide studies and psychopathy and careercriminality because it's often the same kind of person whois engaging in all of these behaviors.

    • 21:23

      MATT DELISI [continued]: If you go back to the Wolfgang findingthat those chronic offenders are the ones whoare most likely or most responsible for homicides,it stands to reason that homicide studies islikely irrelevant for career criminals.So I've always had this sort of open mind to other contentareas that I thought were relevant to whatit was I was studying.And I've kind of branched off from career criminals.

    • 21:44

      MATT DELISI [continued]: But, to me, it's all really the same thing.In terms of other influences, there'sbeen probably too many to list.Moffitt is probably number one.Another scholar who has had a huge effect on mewould be Adrian Raine, who does neuro-imaging research,is probably the leading person in the world, at leastwithin criminology, in terms of understanding how brain

    • 22:05

      MATT DELISI [continued]: abnormalities, especially among psychopathsand among homicide offenders, howthose are associated with behavioral problemsand severe behaviors.A lot of my colleagues are very influential to me.So I've been fortunate enough to collaboratewith a lot of people in the field.And when you collaborate, you sort of learn things from them.So some of my collaborators are outstanding analytically

    • 22:27

      MATT DELISI [continued]: and with statistics.And so I sort of pick up things from them,pick up things in terms of research methodsand even just content areas.So I have a lot of friends and colleagues who we share data.We share articles.So if something comes out that wethink people are interested in, at timeshave a listserv, at other times we just email them around.So it's a very collaborative kind of field which is nice.

    • 22:49

      MATT DELISI [continued]: Keeps you fresh.Years ago, there was a sort of heated debate in terms of whatcauses career criminals.Are they born or are they made?And so there were theoretical sort of debates about is itsocial processes or sociological effects

    • 23:12

      MATT DELISI [continued]: in which the person is enmeshed which pushed themtowards a life of crime?And then, there was a sort of other approaches.And this other approach is really where I come from.And that is, are there individual level factorsor deficits that largely are driving career criminalsbehavior over time?The short answer is it's both, of course.

    • 23:34

      MATT DELISI [continued]: Usually, when you have an academic debate,and especially if it's heated, the answeris somewhere in the middle.And the reality is that career criminalshave a variety of deficits in termsof their personality, in terms of their neurologicalfunctioning, in terms of their temperament.And these problems are evident very early in life.

    • 23:56

      MATT DELISI [continued]: And what those problems do is they affect the environmentin very different ways.They tend to evoke very negative kinds of reactionsfrom the environment.So one of those would be parenting.So lots of research on chronic offenders, psychopaths,and other research in developmental psychopathologyhas found that kids who are very antisocial

    • 24:17

      MATT DELISI [continued]: are very difficult to parent.And unfortunately, one of the things that happensis their behaviors are so severe that they often invokeor invite abusive forms of parenting,including abuse and neglect.And so that example shows how individual level deficitsinteract with the environment.And what it does is produces these kindof coercive experiences and, additionally,

    • 24:39

      MATT DELISI [continued]: problematic behaviors.That same kind of dynamic interplayis occurring at school, is occurring among peers,and just continues to occur as they age through childhoodto adolescence to adulthood.I have three young children.And one of the things that they'reable to do in kindergarten or first gradeis to tell you who the kids are who don't behave very well.

    • 25:02

      MATT DELISI [continued]: The word that sometimes they would useis certain kids would have "fits."And what I sometimes tell my colleagues is, why is itthat a kindergartner or a first-gradercan identify rather clearly who the children arewho have these types of deficits or these fits?And then, if you think back to your own childhoodor your own school career, you likelywent to school with children who had severe behavioral problems.

    • 25:25

      MATT DELISI [continued]: And what you likely found is that as you aged,you probably interacted with them less and less and less.Because, over time, those kids whohave severe behavioral problems have a very different childhoodthan children who are normal, so to speak,at least behaviorally.And the children who have the deficits

    • 25:45

      MATT DELISI [continued]: are either tracked out of mainstream classes.They might have their own programs.They might be placed in different types of institutionsor schools.They might come into contact with the juvenile justicesystem and usually do.So they're in detention.So they go into this entire different worldthan normative types of behaviored kids do.And if you think about that, that

    • 26:07

      MATT DELISI [continued]: is just constantly showing the effector the influence of environment and also person-specific kindsof variables.So unfortunately, that took decades to try and resolve.You had the kind of strident sociologistswho didn't want to acknowledge individual levelissues like personality or self-control.And then, you had other people, perhaps,who were so vigilant about their individual level of construct

    • 26:30

      MATT DELISI [continued]: they wanted to reduce or sort of minimizethe effect of the environment.But it's obviously both.The reference works for understanding career criminals,I would probably start with the Wolfgang book,"Delinquency in a Birth Cohort."Just because that was really the first to do it.

    • 26:54

      MATT DELISI [continued]: It's somewhat dry in the sense that itcontains a lot of methodology and a lot of analyses.But it's really the place that you should startin terms of understanding that.I had a book in 2005 called "Career Criminals in Society"that I think was helpful for sortof organizing where the literature has been,at least up into that point.But the other thing that I tried to do with that

    • 27:16

      MATT DELISI [continued]: was to interject my interest in homicide offendersand psychopathy so that people can understandthat this phenomenon of career criminalsis relevant beyond criminology.It's relevant in psychology and other fields.And I also-- because I was a criminal justice practitioner--have more of an interest in kind of true crimetypes of phenomena.So I would incorporate fictional criminal histories

    • 27:40

      MATT DELISI [continued]: or fictional case studies that were, frankly,based upon offenders who I had really talked with.And so I think that students find that very interestingto sort of learn about or see justin paper what these kind of offending histories might be.Rather than just trying to learn about the theoriesand going through the empirical points.In terms of journals, fortunately, this area of study

    • 28:02

      MATT DELISI [continued]: is so popular that really all the journalsin criminology produce research on,if not career criminals, at least criminal careersand trying to understand different types of pathwaysthat the defenders have.So you really can't escape it.It's one of the most popular areas to study.

    • 28:26

      MATT DELISI [continued]: The Wolfgang study-- the birth cohort study-- is reallythe gold standard in the field.And what it's really been doing for the fieldis giving a template for who this group likelyis, at least statistically.And what we've found in our own workis that it's repeatedly around 5% to 6%.Other studies find maybe it's 3%.

    • 28:47

      MATT DELISI [continued]: Other studies go up to, perhaps, 10%.But it's in that range of 3% to 10%where you are going to have your more pathological career-typesof offenders.And that's important because that findinghas been produced in using data from all over the world.And not only in Western countries, but alsocountries from South America, from Asia, from Australia,

    • 29:09

      MATT DELISI [continued]: really all over the world.And that's been interesting because it suggeststhat part of this issue really mightbe statistical in the sense that in a large populationyou're going to have-- for reasonssociological, biological, and psychological-- people whoare pathological in their behavioras it relates to crime.And because we so consistently find this same group

    • 29:31

      MATT DELISI [continued]: and because they seem to engage in the same behaviors--they're almost always males, they start early,they are very versatile, and theyhave all these other collateral problems relatingto school and family and work problems--that's been also helpful for interventions.Because we can, with greater confidence, provideinterventions because we know these

    • 29:52

      MATT DELISI [continued]: are going to be the youth who are going to be problematic.The research methods that are used to study career criminalsare challenging for this reason in that peoplewho are pathological offenders aren't out there generally

    • 30:12

      MATT DELISI [continued]: in the general public.And what I mean by that is they'renot usually available for normal types of surveys.Moreover, because they're so antisocial,they're not likely to complete or participate in a survey.So if you are interested in studyingpathological criminal offenders, youcan't sample the general population or sample

    • 30:32

      MATT DELISI [continued]: really schools.You have to use what are known as clinical or correctionalsamples.So that means that you have to become acquaintedwith the criminal justice system and ofteneither use criminal justice system data thatare available to the public or you haveto go into these facilities and institutionsand interview them or gather your own data.

    • 30:52

      MATT DELISI [continued]: That raises other issues in that if you're onlystudying criminal offenders, it mightlimit the generalizability to the general population.You might be sampling people who are so different that what'sgoing on with them statistically might not necessarily applyto the general population.So that's sort of a methodological challengein dealing with them.

    • 31:13

      MATT DELISI [continued]: The other problem, or mythological challenge,is that the criminal justice system has historicallybeen pretty hands off in terms of allowing researchers into work with them.That's, fortunately, changed a lot in recent years.But for many years, you were just simply outof luck if you wanted to study the most severe offendersbecause they weren't available.In terms of other types of research methods,

    • 31:35

      MATT DELISI [continued]: really a broad range have been used.Some scholars have used qualitative approaches,where they interview career offenders.But the lion's share of research is quantitative in nature.And what I mean by that is they include measures of everythingabout that person that they can find,not only their arrests and convictions and imprisonments,but psychiatric history they might have,

    • 31:57

      MATT DELISI [continued]: family history they might have, drug abuse history.Anything that they think is perhapsrelevant over the life course to understand criminal behavior.And so larger cohort studies thatare being done around the world now start very earlyin life, even in infancy and toddlerhood.

    • 32:19

      MATT DELISI [continued]: And they effectively measure everythingabout a person for however long the study is going on.One of the most famous is a New Zealand birth cohortwhere they have been following youth whowere born in 1972 and in 1973.And they're continuing to follow them to the present day.That's being done by Terrie Moffitt and her colleagues.And that study is probably the most data

    • 32:42

      MATT DELISI [continued]: rich in that it includes seemingly measuresof everything, including genes.And it was that research group actuallythat was really the first to specify waysthat it measured gene and measuredinner environmental effect, which was maltreatment,how those interacted to produce-- they didn't call itcareer criminality, but it was a lotof the same kinds of behavioral outcomes

    • 33:02

      MATT DELISI [continued]: that career criminals display.There's quite a bit of public impact of career criminalsresearch.One is that the public usually hasthe right take on this issue.And that is that when you have-- usually it's a severe crime,

    • 33:23

      MATT DELISI [continued]: and unfortunately, it's usually a homicideor multiple homicides.And what you will sort of learn about-- their narrativegoes like this-- You'll have some horrific crime.They will contact the offender or arrest the offender.That offender usually has a lifelong criminal pattern.And the public is outraged and asks,why has this person repeatedly been

    • 33:43

      MATT DELISI [continued]: let out of jail and or prison?And that's a good question.So I think that the public is always very keento sort of learn about this because they're tired of crime,even when crime is low.And they feel that while we shouldbe humane and progressive perhaps in dealing with mostoffenders, since most offenders are helpable and fixable,

    • 34:05

      MATT DELISI [continued]: most people in the general public,whether they're liberal or conservative,also feel that public safety is important.And that if you have people who are simply not goingto stop offending and or are dangerous,they want them removed from everyone else.They want them in prison.So that is always important to the public.The other thing that's been sort of exciting in my own career

    • 34:25

      MATT DELISI [continued]: is the criminal justice system notices research as well.And so I have had some fun opportunitiesin terms of sort of expert witness types of experiencesand consultancy to work with the criminal justice systemand work with prosecutors who are prosecuting someof these types of offenders.And have been able to speak to what their life history is

    • 34:46

      MATT DELISI [continued]: like, what their criminal offending is like,and with the likelihood that theywould continue to commit crime.Frankly, the likelihood that a career criminal willcommit crime is about 100%.It's simply what they do and it's what they've always done.And so that's been somewhat surprising, but also excitingfor me is to have someone in the justice system

    • 35:07

      MATT DELISI [continued]: recognize your work.And not only that, contact you to work with them in orderto help, perhaps, incarcerate someone who reallyneeds to be incarcerated.

Matt DeLisi Discusses Career Criminals

View Segments Segment :


Professor Matt DeLisi discusses career criminals and his research on the subject. Career criminals are a small subgroup of criminal offenders, yet are responsible for 60-90% of the most serious forms of crime. DeLisi discusses the challenges that career criminals pose to the criminal justice system, the predictability of career criminals, and research that has been done about them.

SAGE Video Experts
Matt DeLisi Discusses Career Criminals

Professor Matt DeLisi discusses career criminals and his research on the subject. Career criminals are a small subgroup of criminal offenders, yet are responsible for 60-90% of the most serious forms of crime. DeLisi discusses the challenges that career criminals pose to the criminal justice system, the predictability of career criminals, and research that has been done about them.

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website

Back to Top