Assessing the Harms of Crime

A New Framework for Criminal Policy

by Victoria A. Greenfield, Letizia Paoli

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Assessing the Harms of Crime provides a firm analytical foundation for making normative decisions about criminal and related policy, taking harm—and its reduction—as a conceptual starting point and supplying the means for systematic, empirical analysis in a harm assessment framework.

By exploring harm's place in legal history, theory, criminology, and related fields and by considering the relevance of harm and its reduction for both criminal policy and the governance of security, the book demonstrates the centrality of harm, including its reduction, to crime, policy, and governance. It also highlights a substantial gap in methods available to the policy community to take on harm and the challenges of developing them.

Working to fill that gap, the book presents the authors' "Harm Assessment Framework," consisting of tools and a process to identify, evaluate, and rank harms and to carefully distinguish between harms that result directly from activities and those that are remote or driven at least partially by policy.

The book also presents applications to complex crimes, primarily involving coca and cocaine, that show the framework's value with new, actionable insight to harm and policy. On this basis, the book argues that criminology would benefit from expanding its mission to include harm and target harm reduction and from positioning harm assessment as a core task. Lastly, it posits that systematic, empirical harm-based policy analysis can contribute positively to decisions about criminal policy and the governance of security and to advancing justice.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Commercial book series. Periodically, RAND Corporation researchers publish with commercial presses. These books are not available from RAND but can be requested directly from the publisher, except in cases where the rights have reverted to RAND and we have republished a new edition.

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