Reconsidering the "Violent Offender"
Demonizing people as violent has perpetuated policies rooted in fear rather than fact. In this paper, we break from the tradition of punitiveness toward people convicted of violent offenses and argue that the violent offender label breaches the principle of parsimony, distorts proportionality, and fails as a predictive tool for future violent behavior. The label disproportionately affects people of color—black and Hispanic people comprise larger shares of people incarcerated for violent offenses in state prisons than white people. In short, the violent offender label offers little to criminal justice policy. Instead, justice policy should focus on those who actually commit violence, mitigate responses based on the experience of violent victimization, and discount the violent offender label as predictive of future violence.
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