Study examines criminal records of homicide offenders


The prevalence of having a serious criminal record is far higher among persons arrested for homicide than for the general population, according to researchers analyzing data of all arrests and felony convictions in Illinois for 1990 2000. The researchers write that homicide is a serious public health problem in the U.S. with 17,638 victims in 2002. The researchers found that homicide arrests in Illinois are concentrated among individuals with a criminal record. However, only 32.5 percent of homicide arrestees were convicted of a felony in the previous 5 years suggesting that "an intervention that reduced the homicide risk of felons to that of the general population would reduce the homicide rate by just 31 percent." The researchers note that a large part of the homicide problem lies beyond the reach of any preventive treatment that is limited to individuals who have been arrested or convicted. The researchers suggest that broader prevention strategies, including general deterrence and the regulation of markets for "criminogenic" commodities (firearms, alcohol, and drugs), may be needed in addition to the already existing interventions after arrest or convictions, such as mandatory drug treatment, supervised release, imprisonment, correctional programs, and bans of firearm possession.

(JAMA. 2005; 294:598-601)

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