An article was published in the February 2012 issue of the premier American criminological journal, Criminology & Public Policy by Shawn Bushway and Robert Apel, which we posted on in March of this year.

It is the lead article of the issue dedicated to examining the theory of signaling as it relates to reentry.

The introduction to the issue notes the focus:

“The lead policy article by Bushway and Apel (2012, this issue) constitutes a new and interesting way to think about predicting future offending among released prisoners. Of course, many approaches arguably pass the test of being “interesting.” Their article, however, provides a potentially helpful way to advance efforts aimed at understanding reentry and, more important for the journal, Criminology & Public Policy, to inform discussions about specific ways that reentry can be improved.

“Their central argument is that individuals, while in prison or upon release, issue “signals” that let us know that they are unlikely to recidivate. They focus on ex-prisoner employment program participation as a useful signal. But, as noted in the subsequent discussion, there are others that may work as well. No doubt, there is good reason to perhaps wax skeptical about some parts of the Bushway and Apel (2012) argument. At the same time, their article raises questions that should be relevant to scholars and policy makers alike. In this introduction, we detail some of the reasons for viewing the article as an important point of departure for reentry discussions and policy.”

It follows a long line of policy prescriptions from the academy and government that continue trying to create rehabilitative programs that actually work—see our rehabilitation post.

In his 1974 article, Crime & the Criminologists, James Q. Wilson wrote:

“The “social-science view” of crime is thought by many, especially its critics, to assert that crime is the result of poverty, racial discrimination, and other privations, and that the only morally defensible and substantively efficacious strategy for reducing crime is to attack its “root causes” with programs that end poverty, reduce discrimination, and meliorate privation. In fact, however, at the time when their views on crime were first sought by policymakers (roughly, the mid-1960′s), social scientists had not set forth in writing a systematic theory of this sort. I recently asked three distinguished criminologists to nominate the two or three scholarly books on crime which were in print by mid-1960 and which were then regarded as the most significant works on the subject. There was remarkable agreement as to the titles: Principles of Criminology, by Edwin H. Sutherland and Donald R. Cressey, and Delinquency and Opportunity, by Richard A. Cloward and Lloyd E. Ohlin. Agreement was not complete on the validity of the views expressed in these books. Quite the contrary; criminologists then and now debate hotly and at length over such issues as the cause of crime. But these two books, and others like them, are alike in the way questions are posed, answers are sought, and policies are derived—alike, in short, not in their specific theories of delinquency, but in the general perspective from which those theories flow. And this perspective, contrary to popular impression, has rather little to do with poverty, race, education, housing, or the other objective conditions that supposedly cause crime. If anything, it directs attention away from factors that government can control, even if only marginally, to move beyond the reach of social policy altogether. Thus when social scientists were asked for advice by national policymaking bodies on how to reduce crime, they could not respond with suggestions derived from and supported by their scholarly work. In consequence, such advice as they did supply tended to derive from their general political views rather than from the expert knowledge they were presumed to have.”