Tag Archives: transformative

Death Penalty: Might Does Not Make Right

Please remember that this paper is in TurnItIn so do not plagerize. This paper was for my Criminal Law 1 class and I got a 99 on the final paper. I used to be pro-death penalty; however, as I’ve evolved in my philosophy and have come to know morality as being universal, I can no longer support it. Also, I did not include economics in this paper because there are reports that sort of cancel each other out. In other words, people saying the death penalty is less expensive have reports to show that is the case; however, those that claim LWOP (Life WithOut Parole) also have reports that show their stance is the case. I couldn’t find proof enough to satisfy me.

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Death Penalty: Might Does Not Make Right by Reagen Dandridge Desilets is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Death Penalty: Might Does Not Make Right

Reagen Dandridge Desilets

Trident Technical College

14SP_F2 CRJ115 Criminal Law I (W04)

April 6, 2014


The death penalty was brought to America by colonial settlers and continues more than 400 years later to this day. There are several studies that claim to justify the continued use of the death penalty; however, there is other research that explains how they do not hold up under scrutiny. In the interests of justice, we must follow through with due diligence to ensure that we are not allowing cruel and unusual punishments to be applied. This paper will explore some of the history and research into this topic and show why it needs careful reconsideration for abolishment.

Death Penalty: Might Does Not Make Right

The death penalty has been a tool used by authorities in an attempt to control the actions of people for centuries; the first codified death penalty laws go back to the Eighteenth Century B.C. in the Code of King Hammaurabi of Babylon (DPIC). In the United States of America, the death penalty was brought by European settlers. The first recorded execution occurred in Jamestown, Virginia in 1608 when Captain George Kendall was executed for being a Spanish spy (Winglfield). The types of crimes punishable by death were vast ranging from theological crimes such as denying the “true God”, to minor crimes like stealing grapes, killing a chicken or trading with natives, to major crimes such as murder (DPIC). Since we can see the absurdity of killing someone over religious beliefs or where the victim had little to no actual harm, it would be wise to continue to question the use of such an absolute form of punishment.

One of the prominent reasons stated for the continued use of the death penalty is that it is a deterrent (Mocan & Gittings, 2003). There have been some studies attempting to support such claims; however, there are others that question the methodologies used in those studies (Donohue & Wolfers, 2006) (Radelet & Lacock, 2009). If a study claims to prove that the death penalty is an effective deterrent, but uses incomplete or questionable methods, then their claims to empirical evidence are not truly empirical. With lives hanging in the balance, this is a vitally important distinction to make. Is their theory falsifiable and if it is, then they failed to prove their theory has any merit whatsoever (Booth, 2004). Donohue and Wolfers (2006) and Radelet and Lacock (2009) have done well to show the errors in several studies, thereby falsifying them. In fact, there are very few academics that support the death penalty as an acceptable form of punishment (Flanders, 2013).

Some claim that morality is upheld with the death penalty in place. Morality is frequently confused with social mores. Mores change from culture to culture and to say that mores are the same as morality denies that there is a universal morality (Gert, 2011). An example of social mores would be the prohibition of vices such as recreational marijuana use. While society frowns upon the recreational use of marijuana and may call those that do use it in such a fashion “immoral”, it is in fact not immoral as it does not cause harm to another person. There are five harms: “death, pain, disability, loss of freedom, and loss of pleasure” (Gert, 2004). So to call the death penalty moral is to say that the person administering it is not causing harm to another person. Compare that to someone smoking marijuana. The person getting high is not causing harm to anyone while the executioner most certainly is. The death penalty, therefore, is a social more, not a moral act. “The death penalty honors human dignity by treating the defendant as a free moral actor able to control his own destiny for good or for ill; it does not treat him as an animal with no moral sense” (Fein, 2001). This attempt to transfer the moral burden of killing a convicted offender to said offender falls short. Yes, there are indeed consequences to one’s actions; however, it does not relieve those initiating, cooperating, and conducting the executions of their responsibility of causing harm to another person.

There are a few people who claim that the death penalty is a form of self-defense. Self-defense, up to and including lethal force, is certainly an acceptable act when needed to protect oneself and other innocents from imminent harm (Gert, 2004). The idea equating the death penalty with self-defense was put forward by Gian Rinaldo Carli as a response to Cesare Beccaria’s 1764 treatise, On Crimes and Punishments (Maestro, 1980). Beccaria proposed a number of changes to the penal legal systems of the time including abolishing the death penalty. Carli rebutted saying that the victim, having been killed by the offender, would have killed the offender in the course of self-defense if they had the means to do so. The death of the offender is planned in advance and executed while the offender is unable to cause harm to anyone else involved, making the act not of self-defense but rather an immoral act of harm more akin to premeditated murder.

Legal definition is the only thing that defines the death penalty as something other than premeditated murder. The legal definition of murder can change from state to state but is usually something along the lines of the unlawful, intentional killing of a person with malice aforethought (Berman). Malice aforethought is the intent to harm or kill without justification, excuse, or mitigating circumstances. The key word we are looking at would be “unlawful”. The law allows for the intentional killing with malice aforethought in the instance of the death penalty. So the acceptance of a legal definition of murder is the only thing that society leans on to excuse the death penalty as an act different than murder. As such, the death penalty has become a social more and never was or could be a moral act. Legislating an immoral act doesn’t suddenly make it moral.

Another reason stated to support the death penalty is for justice. But is that really true? That depends on how someone defines justice. Dr. Budziszewski at the University of Texas at Austin claims, “Society is justly ordered when each person receives what is due to him” (2007). This is the model currently used in the United States of America and it is called the retributive model of justice (Krup, 1981). In retributive justice models, crime is breaking the law and not necessarily something that causes harm; offender accountability is about the offender accepting the infliction of harm and not the offender taking steps to repair the harm they have caused wherever possible; crime affects the government and the focus is taken from the victim and the people most closely affected by the criminal act; public safety is said to be attained by increasing laws and not by building community peace to maintain order (CRYJ). Retribution is based on revenge (The Ideology of the Death Penalty – Retribution and Revenge, 2005). Claims that retribution is a form of restitution, and not revenge, are not true as the state seeking retribution does nothing to help repair the harm to the victim and make them whole again (FindLaw). If efforts are focused on punishment instead of making the victim as whole again as possible and helping the offender to not reoffend, then there is no real justice. There isn’t any justice in revenge and it sets a bad example for citizens. It sends the message that revenge is okay; that revenge is sanctioned by the state and is to be trusted when done by the state. It attempts to cement the idea that the victim is made more whole by the state committing another premeditated murder in the name of the victim. It sends a confused message that justice and revenge are the same when they are not.

Why are revenge and justice not related? Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. makes some good generalizations about the differences between justice and revenge (2014). The first of those are that revenge is emotional and justice is rational. Justice in its most logical and moral definition is not about “getting even”. It’s about righting a wrong. Second, revenge is personal while justice is impersonal and impartial. Justice is supposed to be blind and that cannot be achieved while someone is feeding a rage to get revenge. Next, revenge is vindictiveness while justice is vindication. Basically, it’s the old adage that two wrongs do not make a right. Revenge is also about cycles whereas justice is about closure. When someone wronged commits an act of revenge, then it’s possible the offender, now a victim, may also seek revenge. It’s a vicious cycle that turns over and over and, before anyone knows it, no one remembers how it all began. However, justice aims to get restitution, rehabilitation, resolution, and closure. This will end the cycle of violence that revenge would only perpetrate. Finally, revenge concerns retaliation and justice concerns restoring balance. Revenge tends to be disproportionate because of the emotion involved in such acts. Vigilantism is frequently fed by personal senses of what is right and wrong and can be fueled when multiplied by crowds of people, such as seen in riots and lynch mobs. However, such extremism on the part of revenge isn’t going to help and justice aims to “dispassionately” restore balance through equity. Restoration is about repairing harm with equal restitution, not restitution and then some. So the goal of the death penalty, revenge, is a dangerous path to tread that does not seek justice in the end, only more harm.

All of the above discussions do not even consider when an innocent person is executed by the state. It is hard to know how many innocent people have been executed as there usually isn’t a chance for exoneration after execution (DPIC, 2014). There have been, however, a total of 116 death row inmates exonerated from 1973 to 2004 (Dieter, 2004). This may point to the very likelihood of innocent people having been executed in the past, which is far from being just or moral. Even though there have been some exonerations now does not mean that there are no longer innocent people currently facing the death penalty. Nevertheless, death penalty proponents seem to accept this grave injustice as a part of the system. Judge Mark L. Wolf of the Federal District Court in Boston admitted to the fact that innocent people are executed but still refused to declare the death penalty unconstitutional (Liptak, 2003). Judge Michael Ponsor of the Federal District Court in Springfield once wrote, “(T)hat a legal regime relying on the death penalty will inevitably execute innocent people – not too often, one hopes, but undoubtedly sometimes. Mistakes will be made because it is simply not possible to do something this difficult perfectly, all the time. Any honest proponent of capital punishment must face this fact.” (2002) And yet, even when this frightening truth is acknowledged, people refuse to take a stance against it. Instead, the responsibility of killing innocent people is thrust into the hands of the system, which is fallible precisely because it is in the hands of human beings. The system cannot exist outside of human action as it is human action. Once this blame-shifting behavior is stopped, then people would have to be held accountable for the detention and death of innocent people. Support for the death penalty would have to stop so as to not continue to kill innocent people by mistake. This issue is something those that hold to the death penalty being moral and just cannot continue to hide behind.

After centuries of excusing the use of the death penalty through codified laws and social mores it is becoming less able to withstand the tests of effectiveness, justness, and morality. Other means need to be sought to find better ends, ends that will give everyone a real sense of achieving justice. The death penalty is not an effective deterrent; therefore, it serves the purpose of revenge instead of justice. The death penalty offers no restitution for the harms caused by the offender. The death penalty is an immoral act as it is the killing of someone that is not an imminent danger. The death penalty is also the ending of the life of some people that were truly innocent. It is time to evolve beyond the death penalty and adopt better ways of dealing with offenders and getting justice for victims and their families. Only then will people begin to heal and feel at peace.


Berman, S. J. (n.d.). Homicide: Murder and Manslaughter. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from Nolo: Law for All: http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/homicide-murder-manslaughter-32637.html

Booth, J. (2004, Summer). Scientific Knowledge: Truth, Induction, and Falsification. Richmond Journal of Philosophy(7), 44-49.

Budziszewski, J. (2007, January 6). Captial Punishment: The Case for Justice. Retrieved April 8, 2014, from First Things: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/capital-punishment-the-case-for-justice

CRYJ. (n.d.). What is Restorative Justice. Retrieved April 8, 2014, from Center for Youth Justice: http://www.restorativeyouthjustice.org/restorativejustice

Dieter, R. C. (2004, September). A Death Penalty Information Center Report. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from DPIC: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocence-and-crisis-american-death-penalty

Donohue, J. J., & Wolfers, J. (2006, January). Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate. Stanford Law Review, 58, 791-846.

DPIC. (2014, March 12). Innocence and the Death Peanlty. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from Death Penalty Information Center: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocence-and-death-penalty

DPIC. (n.d.). Part I: History of the Death Penalty. Retrieved April 7, 2014, from Death Penalty Information Center: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/part-i-history-death-penalty#early

Fein, B. (2001, Summer). The Death Penalty, but Sparingly. Human Rights, 28(3), p. 18.

Flanders, C. (2013, Fall). The Case Against the Case Against the Death Penalty. New Criminal Law Revew: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal, 16(4), 595-620.

Gert, B. (2004). Common Morality : Deciding What to Do. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gert, B. (2011). The Definition of Morality. Retrieved April 8, 2014, from Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/morality-definition/

Innocence Project. (n.d.). The Innocent and the Death Penalty. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from Innocence Project: http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/The_Innocent_and_the_Death_Penalty.php

Krup, S. D. (1981, December). A Retributive-Justice Model of Sentencing. Federal Probation, 45(4), 24-29.

Letsas, G. (2009). Rights and Duties on Pitcairn Island. In D. Oliver, Justice, Legality and the Rule of Law: Lessons from the Pitcairn Prosecutions. New York: Oxford University Press.

Liptak, A. (2003, August 12). Signs Grow of Innocent People Being Executed, Judge Says. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/12/national/12DEAT.html

Maestro, M. (1980, Feb. 29). The Death Penalty Viewed as an Act of Self-Defense by Two Italian Jurists in the Eighteenth Century. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 124(1), 52-54.

Martinson. (1996). What Works? Questions and Answers about Prison Reform. In G. S. Bridges, J. G. Weis, & R. D. Crutchfield, Criminal Justice: Readings (pp. 113-123). Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press.

Mocan, H. N., & Gittings, R. K. (2003, October). Getting off Death Row: Commuted Sentences and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment. Journal of Law and Economics, 46(2), 453-478.

Ponsor, M. (2002, August 22). Measuring price of death penalty. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from UMass Amherst: http://people.umass.edu/leg485/ponsor.htm

Radelet, M. L., & Lacock, T. L. (2009, Spring). Recent Developments: Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates?: The Views of Leading Criminologists. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 99(2), 489-508.

Rothbard, M. N. (1963). War, Peace, and the State. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from Ludwig von Mises Institute: http://mises.org/rothbard/warpeace.asp

Seltzer, L. F. (2014, February 6). Don’t Confuse Revenge with Justice: 5 Key Differences. Retrieved April 12, 2014, from Psychology Today: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201402/don-t-confuse-revenge-justice-5-key-differences

Winglfield, E. M. (n.d.). First Hand Accounts of Virginia, 1575-1705: A Discourse of Virginia. Retrieved April 7, 2014, from University of Virginia Library: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/jamestown-browse?id=J1023

* Feature image in header from http://rt.com/files/news/20/b8/10/00/death-row-inmates-drug-cocktail.jpg


Transformative, Restorative, Retributive Justice and more…

There are several models of issuing justice. Some are rehabilitative, retributive, transformative, and restorative. They all have different impacts on victims, offenders/subjects, and society as a whole. I would like to define each term to help everyone gain a better understanding of what exactly is at stake here.


Rehabilitative justice is defined as “(p)unishment intended to reform a convict so that (he/)she can lead a productive life free from crime.” This is also referred to as the medical model of criminal justice. The idea focuses on trying help the offender, or subject, change behaviors that prevent them from being able to live a relatively “normal” life. This includes things such as rehabilitation from substance abuse, treatment for mental and medical illnesses, and therapies for dealing with emotional reactions.

Retributive justice is the model used in the American justice system. It became a focus after Robert Martinson effectively put forth that “nothing works”. It says that the system should be modeled after someone getting their “just desserts” (why do I keep seeing “just deserts” in my textbooks?), that the “punishment should fit the crime”. This style goes back many millenia, such as with Biblical principles of “eye for an eye” type punishments. Sentencing guidelines, truth in sentencing laws, and three strikes laws are examples of this model. One issue I have with it is that revenge isn’t justice. We are implored by officials to not seek revenge, but that is exactly what the American justice system is set up to do. Combining this with a huge increase in prohibited behaviors (ie, the Drug War) has led to the United States of America having the highest incarceration rate of any country on the planet, and a recidivism rate hanging around at about 67.5%.

Revenge is destructive to everyone involved.

Revenge is destructive to everyone: the one that revenge is sought against, the one seeking revenge, and everyone around them. It seems that in reaction to such alarming statics for “the land of the free”, people are looking again at Martinson’s methodology and conclusions and are beginning to reintroduce rehabilitation into the system.

victim rights restorationRestorative justice “is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior.” This is still in use in a lot of juvenile delinquent programs. The idea is to get the victim “restored”, usually by some form of restitution. This is a closer link, in my opinion, to real justice as the victim is the focus of the program. There is also usually a focus on the offender/subject in the way of rehabilitation and family support to help keep binds to the community, a reason for the person to reform and have a successful reentry to society. For that reason, restorative and rehabilitative justice are grouped together. I don’t do that because rehabilitative justice methods may not focus much, or at all, on the victim.

restorative justice vs. non-restorative justice

“Transformative justice uses a systems approach, seeking to see problems, as not only the beginning of the crime but also the causes of crime, and tries to treat an offense as a transformative relational and educational opportunity for victims, offenders and all other members of the affected community.” This focuses on restitution, rehabilitation, and education. There are a number of efforts to get this model growing. One that was recently brought to my attention (indeed my introduction to Transformative Justice as it is not mentioned in any of my textbooks so far) is Philly Stands Up. They have a lot of great literature on the topic on their site and I urge everyone to check them out and learn from the resources they offer.

My personal opinion is that retribution is a failure. Nonviolent offenders are thrown into prisons with some very evil criminals and in that environment, they have to change to survive. Those changes do not translate well on the outside, so the person has become “institutionalized”. Chances of reoffending (either the old charge or new crime) become very high. The thought of going back to prison isn’t a great deterrent because they know they have survived it before. I would love to see a return to rehabilitation but also more focus on things like restorative and transformative justice models.

Restorative and Transformative Justice
Restorative and Transformative Justice focuses on everyone, not just the offender and society.

The victim has to be a consideration when it comes to justice as THEY were the ones wronged to start with. Victim advocacy has grown into a field of its own and rightfully so. Victims don’t need revenge, they need justice. Most offenders/subjects also need justice – they are humans as well, some consider themselves victims of circumstance and if they are not shown another way, they will continue the cycle of criminality. Society as a whole, as I have learned, is woefully uneducated in the various models of justice and how each model works. Most still blindly cling to the idea of the punishment needing to fit the crime but they don’t understand exactly what that means. They also fail to understand the consequences and blowback on various laws and policies such as the Drug War (I’ll get into that in another entry later).

This is why I started this blog – to inform and discuss the criminal justice system as it is and as it can be. Please feel free to comment and share anything you see here. Thank you for reading. I hope you learned something from this entry that you didn’t already know.

*Images and sources linked when posted/cited

Why Jails and Prisons Are Not Deterrents to Criminals

This was my second thesis. The teacher chose the topic and it is a great one. I had to shorten it to try and keep it within the page number guidelines, however, I still went over the limit. This is why restorative, rehabilitative, and transformative justice needs to be explored and implemented.

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Reducing Recidivism in Stalkers Diagnosed with Class “B” Personality Disorders by Reagen Dandridge Desilets is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://explorejustice.wordpress.com.


Why Jails and Prisons Are Not Deterrents to Criminals


Reagen Dandridge Desilets


Trident Technical College

13UR CRJ242 Correctional Systems (W02)

July 7, 2013


Jails and prisons, while having long been a fixture in criminal justice system, have not been a significant factor in the deterrence of crime and recidivism.  From its earliest existence as a form of detainment until punishment was doled out to its current mission as being part of the criminal justice and corrections function, they continue to be used despite their ineffectiveness. Other interventions, such as therapies, reintegration methods, restitution, rehabilitation and more, may have a greater effect at helping individuals convicted of crimes more than just putting them in a jail or prison.

Keywords:  prison, jail, deterrent, sanctions, interventions, rehabilitation, therapy

In the United States of America, we see incarceration rates that are anywhere from 4 to 32 percent higher than any other nation on the planet, with738 per 100,000 residents (Hartney, 2006). This is despite the criminal conviction rate being only about 332 per 100,000 residents, which is #31 on the list, not #1 (United Nations, 2001). This is an astonishing statistic for a country that claims to protect liberty and freedom of individuals and people are taking notice.  The reasons for this large rate of incarceration vary, from changing politics, media coverage of crime (fair or otherwise), increasing laws (such as concerned with the War on Drugs and “tough on crime” sentencing laws), and more.  The question is does this large rate of imprisonment really stop crime? It would seem the answer is no.

One notable reason why imprisonment fails as a significant deterrent could be that at least a portion of those committing crimes have issues with self-control and seek out instant gratification (Lee & McCrary, 2005). Evidence in studies suggest that the brain activity surrounding instant gratification increases with emotional responses (i.e. dopamine releases); whereas, future planning will stimulate the more rational processes (McClure, Laibson, Loewenstein, & Cohen, Oct. 2004).  The emotional response, if given into, can be the cause of problems ranging from taking on a loan you cannot afford to committing a crime despite knowing the potential consequences. Also, it has been shown that those with self-control problems tend to have overconsumption issues that lead to lower wealth over the long term (Ameriks, Caplin, Leahy, & Tyler, Jun., 2007). This overconsumption and lack of wealth can lead to a cycle that can repeat itself unless more self-control can be learned and exhibited.

Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a report that showed a recidivism rate within three years of prison release of 67.5% for felony offenses (Langan & Levin, 2002).  With nothing to help inmates learn self-control, future planning, life and career skills they are released back into a world they cannot cope with in order to stay within the letters of the law and succeed.  These are the areas where corrections policy needs to focus on. News headlines are rife with how corrections agency across the  nation are facing budget cuts, so these much needed services are virtually nonexistent in some places and woefully underfunded in others.  And since American corrections have included attempts at rehabilitation, why risk doing it again when it didn’t seem to work in the past? Perhaps it wasn’t done with the right mind set and in the right areas.

Some ideas that come from across the globe include a prison in Norway. Halden prison treats prisoners the most humane of any prison on the planet (Adams, 2010). Families can stay on site, maintaining the familial bonds that are so necessary for success after release. Are Hoidal, the prison’s governor, said, “We want to build them up, give them confidence through education and work and have them leave as better people.” The Norwegian system would seem to have a very positive effect as their recidivism rates are only about 20%.

In New Zealand, there is a huge focus on the victim and the inmate working together to come to terms with the crime and punishment (Schmid, 2001). With this program, less than 10% have to return to court for not fulfilling their end of the agreement. Perhaps this helps convicts learn empathy for their victims and helps to build more community ties.

Cuba has an extensive focus on rehabilitation and reentry that is greatly assisted with a conditional release program that inmates can become eligible for after serving half their sentence (Political Research Associates, 2005). Under this conditional release, they work off site at jobs out in the community, building skills and contacts, as well as being able to have unsupervised visits with family twice a month. This program’s recidivism rate is about 15%.

Laws are another area that can greatly reduce jail and prison populations. There are many countries that do not criminalize vices (drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc.). Aside from the percentage of the prison population that is there just for nonviolent vice crimes, there is sure to be a number of violent offenders there because of the nature of the black market of vices (gangs, abusive pimps, organized crime, etc.). Perhaps a change in laws decriminalizing vices will help reduce the prison population and help make available budgetary resources to help with things like addiction in a non-prison setting.

It seems there are many things to be considered and tried; however, so long as the focus on retribution in the criminal justice and corrections systems remains priority, this may not be easily attainable. Revenge hardly serves justice but when the majority of a nation’s people demand it, there is little that can be done successfully until something dramatic happens to begin to open hearts and eyes to the problems facing us.


Adams, W. L. (2010, May 10). Norway Builds the World’s Most Humane Prison. Retrieved from Time Magazine: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1986002,00.html

Ameriks, J., Caplin, A., Leahy, J., & Tyler, T. (Jun., 2007). Measuring Self-Control Problems. The American Economic Review, Vol. 97, No. 3, 966-972.

Hartney, C. (2006, Nov.). US Rates of Incarceration: A Global Perspective. Retrieved from National Council on Crime & Delinquency: http://www.nccdglobal.org/sites/default/files/publication_pdf/factsheet-us-incarceration.pdf

Langan, P. A., & Levin, D. J. (2002, June). Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994. Retrieved from Bureau of Justice Statistics: http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/rpr94.pdf

Lee, D. S., & McCrary, J. (2005, June). Crime, Punishment, and Myopia. Retrieved from National Bureau of Economic Research: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11491

McClure, S. M., Laibson, D. I., Loewenstein, G., & Cohen, J. D. (Oct. 2004). Separate Neural Systems Value Immediate and Delayed Monetary Rewards. Science Vol. 306 no. 5695, 503-507.

Political Research Associates. (2005, May). The United States versus the World. Retrieved from PublicEye.org: http://www.publiceye.org/defendingjustice/pdfs/factsheets/9-Fact%20Sheet%20-%20US%20vs%20World.pdf

Schmid, D. J. (2001, August). Restorative Justice in New Zealand: A Model For U.S. Criminal Justice. Retrieved from Fulbright New Zealand: http://www.fulbright.org.nz/publications/2001-schmid/

United Nations. (2001, June). Sixth United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, covering the period 1995 – 1997. Retrieved from United Nations: http://www.unodc.org/pdf/crime/sixthsurvey/publication_by_variable_screen.pdf

Reducing Recidivism in Stalkers Diagnosed with Class “B” Personality Disorders

This was my first thesis. I know the topic I chose seems long and boring; however, stalkers with personality disorders, especially class B disorders, have the highest recidivism rate of any other stalker out there. I felt it was a great topic for my Crisis Intervention class. This would fit the idea of transformative justice.
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Reducing Recidivism in Stalkers Diagnosed with Class “B” Personality Disorders by Reagen Dandridge Desilets is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://explorejustice.wordpress.com.

Reducing Recidivism in Stalkers Diagnosed with Class “B” Personality Disorders

Reagen Dandridge Desilets

Trident Technical College
13UR CRJ218 Crisis Intervention (W01)

June 30, 2013


Arrest and imprisonment is not a significant deterrent for stalkers, in particular those diagnosed with Class “B” personality disorders; therefore, other interventions need to be available to try and stop recidivism and protect victims.  Another goal to aspire to achieve would be to improve the quality of life for both victim and stalker.  The role of the criminal justice system may be able to be expanded from primarily just jail or prison time and fines to include other interventions based on other successes shown in previous studies. These other interventions can include mental health care, social work, community and substance abuse programs, and more.

Keywords: Stalking, stalkers, stalker, personality disorders, Class “B” personality disorders, recidivism in stalking, recidivism, obsessional harassment, harassment

Reducing Recidivism in Stalkers Diagnosed with Class “B” Personality Disorders

Stalking, in the criminal justice scope, generally can be defined as any behavior that is harassing but also presents a credible threat to the victim (Mullen & Pathé, 2002).  It was initially thought to affect primarily the famous (such as actress and murder victim Rebecca Shaeffer); however, it eventually began to encompass many other offender-victim relationships, such as former intimates, family members, co-workers, acquaintances, strangers, and more.  Most states have established laws regarding stalking and even harassment.

South Carolina, like most states, has laws where it defines different degrees of harassment and stalking to help in establishing punishment and corrections actions (South Carolina Code of Laws: SC 16-3-1700).  The penalties for stalking and harassment in South Carolina are primarily fines and/or imprisonment that vary with specific charges.  The only mention of mental health intervention is that a judge can order an evaluation and treatment plan after conviction and before sentencing, but it is not a requirement (South Carolina Code of Laws: SC 16-3-1740).

The question is will sanctions and corrections currently in the Code of Laws greatly reduce the chance of recidivism?  Typically speaking prison time, as well as other criminal justice injunctions such as protective orders and fines, does not greatly reduce recidivism.  The media is filled with stories of how a guy gunned down his former girlfriend after she got a protective order against him, or of a celebrity that has had to have one crazed fan arrested more than once, or of a disgruntled ex-employee destroying property or “going postal” after having been physically removed and banned from the property.  As we see that jail or prison time has done nothing to stop some of these stalkers, it is clear that further interventions may need to become a better focus in regards to those convicted of stalking and harassment.  In order to consider what interventions may be appropriate, it may be best to start the focus on those most prone to repeat offending.

Rosenfeld (Jun., 2003) has studied the number of stalkers with various psychiatric disorders as well as recidivism rates.  81.1% of those studied were diagnosed with some sort of psychiatric disorder.  They found that 36.5% had a personality disorder (52.1% of this subgroup had a Class “B” personality disorder), 17.2% had schizophrenia, 15.6% had delusional disorders (erotomanic or persecutory type), and 11.8% had mood disorders.

Out of those Rosenfeld (Jun., 2003) studied, he found that nearly half, 49%, reoffended.  80% of those that reoffended did so within a year of their first arrest.  Others that did not reoffend within the first year were at risk of recidivism that averaged almost 72 months before reoffending.  Out of his sample, 50% of those with a personality disorder reoffended and 29.2% of those with a Class “B” personality disorder also reoffended.  So, while the percentage of stalkers diagnosed with any personality disorder isn’t the majority of stalkers, their recidivism rates are higher compared to other stalkers not diagnosed with a personality disorder.  Recidivism was especially high when the stalker had both a personality disorder and a substance abuse problem.  In fact, nearly all those studied with both a personality disorder and substance abuse did reoffend during the study period.

While, overall, these numbers may seem better on paper, helping the public to settle feelings of fear and hysteria that may come with stalking cases (fearing violence and re-offense), the victims of those that do reoffend still have to suffer.  Another study points to an alarming fact that, in those stalking cases where the stalker has a personality disorder, they latch on to a casual acquaintance more than an intimate partner/ex-partner or a stranger (Dennison, Aug., 2007).  There is no way of being able to know who one of these stalkers may target and why. Unfortunately, the only ways to try and successfully intervene are through reactive methods, reacting to the offender’s previous and current actions, and not preventative.  Reactive methods victims may take to try and protect themselves range from learning to fight and to use weapons, to quitting a job, to moving, and even going so far as to change their identities completely (Mullen & Pathé, 2002).

Personality disorders have no known cause though theories range from life experiences to biological predisposition or a combination of both (Personality Disorders, © 2013).  The symptoms can be easily recognized in adolescents and young adults but they seem to be less noticeable by middle age.  People diagnosed with personality disorders seem to be more rigid, inflexible, and tend to have a very narrow world view.  Mental Health America (Personality Disorders, © 2013) lists three classes of personality disorders with a brief description of each:

  • Cluster A: Odd or eccentric behavior
  • Cluster B: Dramatic, emotional or erratic behavior
  • Cluster C: Anxious fearful behavior

Class “A” disorders are Schizoid personality disorder, Paranoid personality disorder, and Schizotypal personality disorder.  Class “B” disorders include Antisocial/Psychopath personality disorder, Borderline personality disorder, and Narcissistic personality disorder.  Class “C” disorders have Avoidant personality disorder, Dependent personality disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorder (Personality Disorders, © 2013).

In Class “B” disorders, while each category differs, the basic premise is that they all have a hard time being able to reason through behaviors and tend to act before thinking things through logically.  There may also be a lack of empathy for their victims when it comes to crimes such as stalking so that may contribute to why there is a higher recidivism rate among those with these diagnoses.  They cannot relate to others without empathy, so they have no idea how much they are hurting their victim.  Generally speaking, treatment for personality disorders includes various forms of psychotherapy (family, group, cognitive behavior, etc.) and medication may help relieve symptoms from other mental illnesses such as depression, mania, and anxiety that can worsen personality disorder symptoms (Personality Disorders, © 2013).

Vermote, et al. (2011) suggest that long term hospitalization based therapies has a better effect at changing personality traits (based on several personality disorders, most being Class “B”).  They studied cases of patients that were in a hospital setting (residential and day-hospital) receiving various treatments for a maximum of one year.  Treatments included things such as group therapies, non-verbal therapies (music therapy, psychomotor therapy, and creative therapy), psychiatric consultation, social work, individual and group sessions with a nurse, and regular patient-staff meetings.  Treatments focused on establishing a sense of “inner self safety”, corrective emotional experiences and interpretation to correct impairments in representations of self and others, and mentalizations to create a way to reflect and understand oneself and others (such as feelings and intentions).  They found that there existed a stable group and fluctuating (but still improving) group that had the same results long term with these forms of treatment.  When comparing the stable group to the fluctuating group, they found that the fluctuating group had significantly more symptoms when treatment started.  Both groups, however, had significant improvement in their symptoms over time.  The thing that will help make treatment a success, however, is patient participation.

It is possible that a combination of interventions can greatly help manage stalking behaviors, especially when it comes to those identified as moderate- and high-risk of persistence in stalking.  McEwan, et al. (Apr. 2009) says that intervention and management will often need many sources such as “psychologists, psychiatrists, case managers, police, community corrections, and courts.”  The court’s and law enforcement’s roles could be to compel those convicted of stalking and obsessional harassment for evaluation as well as treatment if so recommended by those in the medical and social work fields.  This multifaceted intervention approach to tackling recidivism in stalking should, in theory, help to achieve a lower recidivism rate.  This will also help a percentage of those to actually overcome major problems such as substance abuse, mental illness, mood disorders, and personality disorders which affects more than just stalking behaviors.  This end result would be increased quality of life for both victim and stalker.

In the meantime finding ways to try and better predict recidivism continue to be developed (McEwan, Mullen, & MacKenzie, Apr. 2009).  This will help to pinpoint those with the most urgent needs of a multi-resource intervention approach to help curb any possibilities of re-offense.  Categories used in these prediction models range from offender-victim relationship, history of substance abuse, and psychiatric diagnoses.  Based on these risk assessments proper courses of treatments and corrections can be prescribed to further the success rate of the interventions.

It is perhaps worthwhile to further the discussion of the role of the criminal justice system working in tandem with social services and psychiatric care to help tackle the problem of stalking recidivism.  One of the most volatile elements in those convicted of stalking that reoffend is personality disorders, particularly Class “B” disorders.  With such a combination of various interventions, it is theorized that recidivism can indeed be reduced.  This will help the victims of those that would normally reoffend to be able to heal and move on with their lives as well as helping stalkers to be able to better adapt and live productive lives.


Personality Disorders. (© 2013). Retrieved from Mental Health America: http://www.nmha.org/go/information/get-info/personality-disorders

Dennison, S. M. (Aug., 2007). Interpersonal Relationships and Stalking: Identifying When to Intervene. Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 31, No. 4, 353-367.

McEwan, T. E., Mullen, P. E., & MacKenzie, R. (Apr. 2009). A Study of the Predictors of Persistence in Stalking Situations. Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 33, No. 2, 149-158.

Mullen, P. E., & Pathé, M. (2002). Stalking. Crime and Justice, Vol. 29, 273-318.

Rosenfeld, B. (Jun., 2003). Recidivism in Stalking and Obsessional Harassment. Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 27, No. 3, 251-265.

South Carolina Code of Laws: SC 16-3-1700. (n.d.). Retrieved from South Carolina Legislature Online: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t16c003.php

South Carolina Code of Laws: SC 16-3-1740. (n.d.). Retrieved from South Carolina Legislature Online: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t16c003.php

Vermote, R., Lowyck, B., Luyten, P., Verhaest, Y., Vertommen, H., Vandeneede, B., . . . Peuskens, J. (2011). Patterns of Inner Change and Their Relation with Patient Characteristics and Outcome in a Psychoanalytic Hospitalization-Based Treatement for Personality Disordered Patients. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy Volume 18, Issue 4, 303-313.