Identifying High-Rate Serious Criminals from Official Records

by John E. Rolph, Jan M. Chaiken


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Can official criminal records reliably be used to conclude that certain offenders are committing serious crimes at high rates? By comparing official records with self reports of criminal activity collected in RAND's second inmate survey, this study finds that commonly available official criminal history data are of only marginal help in discriminating between high-rate serious offenders and others. Using additional self-reported data on offenders' backgrounds, particularly regarding substance abuse and early juvenile criminal activity, improves the identification to about 36 percent over what can be achieved by chance.

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