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Analysis of self-report and official record data obtained from nearly 2,200 male prison and jail inmates in California, Michigan, and Texas shows that offenders can be usefully classified according to the combinations of crimes they commit. The most serious inmates, those who concurrently commit robbery, assault, and drug dealing, usually commit these defining crimes at high rates. They often commit burglaries, thefts, and other crimes at high rates too — frequently at higher rates than other types of criminals, including those who specialize in those crimes. Unfortunately, information currently available from such sources as official arrest and conviction records do not permit criminal justice officials to distinguish meaningfully between these high-rate, serious offenders and other types. Much better distinctions can be made using potentially available information on key characteristics: multiple drug use, unstable employment, juvenile use of hard drugs, and violence before the age of 16.

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