Summarizes findings from a project designed to examine the criminal careers of habitual felons. In-depth personal interviews with 49 prison inmates are the primary source of data. Three time periods in criminal careers — juvenile, young adult, and adult — were considered in charting the offender's behavior. Questions covered family relationships, sources of income, employment, frequency of criminal activity, motivations, attitudes, arrests and convictions, methods of planning and executing criminal acts, involvement with drugs and alcohol, use of violence, and post-release behavior patterns. The results are policy-relevant and sometimes counter to traditional criminological thought. On the average, offenders did not exhibit growth in sophistication or skill as criminal careers progressed. Two broad categories of offenders emerged: the intensive and the intermittent. The intensives were more criminally active and more skillful in avoiding arrest. Intensives committed ten times as many crimes as intermittents but were five times less likely to be arrested for any single crime.

This report is part of the RAND paper series. The paper was a product of RAND from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.