Page 289

PART III
HARNESSING UNDERSTANDING TO IMPROVE CONTROL

In Part II we describe what is currently known about certain types of violence. As those chapters show, some useful advances have been made in identifying risk factors—but causal understanding is limited, and there is a shortage of preventive interventions whose effectiveness has been documented through rigorous long-term evaluations.

Lacking clear-cut evidence of successful preventive interventions in social and family problems—poverty, unemployment, unstable family life, poor parenting skills, etc.—some people favor greater use of incarceration to reduce violence through the effects of incapacitation and deterrence. In Chapter 7 we examine recent experience with violent crime levels during an unprecedented increase in the prison population. Based on official statistics, a near-tripling of average prison time served per violent crime during the past 15 years appears not to have produced a concomitant decrease in levels of violent crime. Although the results are not definitive, this suggests that the increased use of prison had a limited violence reduction effect, that other criminogenic processes were at work, or both.

If that is so, then a broader perspective will help to expand thinking about possibilities for preventive interventions in the processes that culminate in violent events, and a more systematic development strategy for such interventions may, over time, expand the array of useful violence prevention tools.



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OCR for page 289
Page 289 PART III HARNESSING UNDERSTANDING TO IMPROVE CONTROL In Part II we describe what is currently known about certain types of violence. As those chapters show, some useful advances have been made in identifying risk factors—but causal understanding is limited, and there is a shortage of preventive interventions whose effectiveness has been documented through rigorous long-term evaluations. Lacking clear-cut evidence of successful preventive interventions in social and family problems—poverty, unemployment, unstable family life, poor parenting skills, etc.—some people favor greater use of incarceration to reduce violence through the effects of incapacitation and deterrence. In Chapter 7 we examine recent experience with violent crime levels during an unprecedented increase in the prison population. Based on official statistics, a near-tripling of average prison time served per violent crime during the past 15 years appears not to have produced a concomitant decrease in levels of violent crime. Although the results are not definitive, this suggests that the increased use of prison had a limited violence reduction effect, that other criminogenic processes were at work, or both. If that is so, then a broader perspective will help to expand thinking about possibilities for preventive interventions in the processes that culminate in violent events, and a more systematic development strategy for such interventions may, over time, expand the array of useful violence prevention tools.

OCR for page 289
Page 290 To help organize our thinking about potential interventions, Chapter 7 presents a matrix that oversimplifies the complexities explored in Part II but that organizes the factors and processes discussed there in a way that highlights promising points for preventive interventions. Because not much is known yet about the interactions between the cells of the matrix, they do not lead immediately to specific policy prescriptions, but do suggest a number of ideas worth testing. Therefore, the chapter concludes with a discussion of the kinds of rigorous evaluations that, by testing promising ideas, can simultaneously improve the capacity to control violence and advance its understanding. In Chapter 8 the panel presents recommendations that, taken together, are designed to fill gaps in knowledge and improve the capacity to diagnose and remedy specific problems. They cover four areas: • initiatives to solve specific violence problems through systematic testing of interventions, • improvements in statistical systems to measure overall violence more completely and specific violence problems more accurately, • neglected areas of violence research, and • a multicommunity longitudinal study of violence and aggression. Chapter 8 concludes by examining the capacity of the current structure of the federal system to support the necessary research. Other important basic research questions have been raised throughout the chapters of Part II.