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Lawrence Sherman Institute of Criminology University of Cambridge . Al Capone, The Sword of Damocles & the Police: Prisons Budget Ratio . Very Harmful No evidence to prove his murdering Prosecution on tax evasion Died in Prison. Al Capone.

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al capone the sword of damocles the police prisons budget ratio
Lawrence Sherman

Institute of Criminology

University of Cambridge

Al Capone, The Sword of Damocles & the Police: Prisons Budget Ratio
al capone
Very Harmful

No evidence to prove his murdering

Prosecution on tax evasion

Died in Prison

Al Capone

Average Charges for MURDER or Attempted Murder Within Two Years of Probation Start: Philadelphia








Richard Berk, Lawrence Sherman, Geoffrey Barnes, Ellen Kurtz and Lindsay Ahlman 2009 “Forecasting murder within a population of probationers and parolees: a high stakes application of statistical learning” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society) 172: 191–211

Lawrence Sherman (2011) “Al Capone, the Sword of Damocles, and the Police–Corrections Budget Ratio” Criminology & Public Policy 10: 195-206.

Lawrence Sherman (2010). Less Prison, More Police, Less Crime: How Criminology Can Save the States from Bankruptcy. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice Video posted at .

neither crime nor criminals are all equal in their harm
Neither Crime nor Criminals Are All Equal in Their HARM
  • What does it mean to say “crime” dropped?
  • All crimes are not created equal
  • Some far more harmful than others
  • Yet governments publish “crime” totals
  • Completely unweighted by harm
  • Total crime down, homicides X 100
  • How to interpret?
crime harm index chi sherman 2007
Crime Harm Index (CHI)(Sherman, 2007)
  • Tool for combining elements of different weights into a single scale value
  • E.g., murder = 200, car theft = 5, shoplift = 1
  • What is 100 crimes in CHI? Example:

10 murders X 200 = 2,000

50 car thefts X 5 = 250

1,000 shop thefts X 1 = 1,000

TOTAL = 3,250

cut costs manage criminals
Cut Costs, Manage Criminals
  • Stop summing crimes
  • Start weighing harms
  • Provide a transparent, total harm “level”
  • Not a confusing flood of undigested data
use crime harm index chi
Use Crime Harm Index (CHI)
  • Evaluate national trends in harm levels
  • Compare police force areas
  • Make decisions about criminals
  • Apportion CJ costs in relation to harm prevention benefit
keep it simple
Keep It Simple?
  • Manage less harmful offenders in communit

(key role of police)

  • Lock up dangerous people forever

(main role for prisons)

  • Keep testing value for money
apply chi to justice
Apply CHI to Justice
  • CJ Act 2003
  • Judge must assess dangerousness
  • Take CHI Forecasts Into Account
  • Early diversion for low risk
  • Probation on tight license
  • Certainty, swiftness—not severity
sword of damocles
Braggart at King’s Table

Not Punished

Merely Threatened with Punishment

Curbed Behaviour

Sword of Damocles

Nieuwbeerta, Paul, Daniel Nagin and Arjan A. J. Blokland (2009). “Assessing the Impact of First-Time Imprisonment on Offenders’ Subsequent Criminal Career Development: A Matched Samples Comparison” Journal of Quantitative Criminology.

bentham deterrence

Celerity (speed)


Bentham: Deterrence
peel 1829



--Stopping the crime in progress

Abolished death penalties


Transportation Today

Still Possible

Peel, 1829
peel s principles 1829
Peel’s Principles 1829
  • Minimum Force Necessary
  • Minimum Cost to Taxpayers
  • Test of Success: NOT punishment
  • BUT the demonstrable absence of crime
  • Prevention, not detection
  • Management of crime and criminals
  • Deter, intercept thieves, break up fights
  • Reserve prosecution for the very worst
operation damocles
Deferred Prosecution

You are under arrest

We can charge you

Put you in Jail

But we suspend action

So you can go straight

Go to drug treatment

Get a job

Do Restorative Justice


“Turning Point” Plan

Or-- we will prosecute

Operation Damocles!
certainty swiftness the project hope example
Certainty, Swiftness:the Project Hope Example
  • Hawaii Offender Probation Enhancement
  • Chronic Drug-Abusing Property Criminals
  • Drug-Testing as a condition
  • Failure COULD mean 5 years in prison
  • Typically failure had not been reported
  • 5, 10, 15 times—no sanction
  • 17th time? Or 19th? Or 13th?
  • Unexpected, sudden, very severe penalty
how does hope improve in theory
How Does HOPE Improve, In Theory?
  • Certainty—call every day, Mon-Fri
  • Swiftness—Immediate processing of tests

Immediate jail time

  • Severity-------Low at first

Steadily rising with repeats

how does hope improve in effects
How Does HOPE Improve, In Effects?
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Prison Days 50% lower for HOPE
  • New Crimes 50% lower for HOPE
  • NIJ to replicate in multiple states
risk based policy foundation of cost effectiveness
Risk-Based Policy:Foundation of Cost-Effectiveness

Pew Trust Report

Parole Guidelines on Release

Virginia sentencing Guidelines—risk, not desert

RAND 1982 Report on Selective Incapacitation

Idea rejected by 1986 NAS Report on Error

False positives too high for values

But prison rate has tripled

False positives are embedded in sentencing

Actuarial Risk could keep them out, not put them in

police as offender managers
Police as Offender Managers
  • Classify Risks
  • Prosecute highest risk, maximum prison
  • Divert Lowest Risk, minimal cost
  • Manage for desistance
  • More emphasis on offender-victim future
  • Test specific tactics—RJ, drug treatment, even “transportation” by consent
where to start
Where to Start
  • Not Hard-Core Recidivists
  • Diamond Districts results (Met)
  • But where diversion alone does best
  • First Offenders—or early
turning points
500 Offenders

Age 70

In & out of crime

Key Turning Points

John Laub

Robert Sampson

Turning Points
big ones
Big Ones
  • Partner (spouse)
  • Job
  • Change of community
  • Cut off ties to old friends—family!
prisoner resettlement re location experiment
Prisoner Resettlement Re-Location “Experiment”

Whether they went back to their “hood”

Unrelated to their choice

Most US states require same community

Louisiana does not

david s kirk
David S. Kirk

“A Natural Experiment on Residential

Change and Recidivism:

Lessons from Hurricane Katrina”

American Sociological Review 2009

cause and effect
Cause and Effect

If re-imprisonment rates differ

“Returners” higher than “Relocaters”

Likely to be caused by relocation

Not self-selection bias

But were they unknown to police?

QUESTION: long-term effects—not 1-year

Would three years be convincing?

relocation less prison
Relocation  Less Prison?

Four-Year Re-imprisonment Rates

(Louisiana or other states)


Returners = 26% 65%

Relocators = 11% 35%

1-year Difference = 15% raw, 58% relative

3-year Difference = 30% raw, 54% relative

further the better
Further the Better

For every ten miles they moved from their old neighbourhood, at one year out,

One Percent Less


managing offenders in community summary
Managing Offenders in Community:Summary
  • Regulatory Pyramid
  • Escalating control, sanctions
  • Low to moderate severity
  • But also individual needs, crime by crime:

--restorative justice


--drug treatment


--not associating with other offenders

turning point policing funded by monument trust
“Turning Point Policing”(funded by Monument Trust)
  • Develop Risk Assessment Tool UK
  • Develop Damocles Tactics
  • Divert sample of first offenders to Damocles
  • Then test overall forecast-based triage
research development
Research & Development
  • British Society for Evidence-Based Policing
  • Testing “rehabilitative policing” or “Offender Desistance Policing (ODP) or “Turning Point Policing”
  • Managing desistance as a lifelong task
  • Comprehensive studies of what works
thank you

Thank You

Lawrence W. Sherman

Jerry Lee Centre of Experimental Criminology

University of Cambridge