Crime and legal work: A markovian model of the desistance process

Thomas A. Loughran, Daniel S. Nagin, Holly Nguyen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Over the past two decades, two dominant themes have emerged in the study of desistance from crime: desistance is a gradual process, and embedded in the desistance process are important life events or turning points. Yet sociological and criminological empirical studies of desistance tend to focus on these two processes separately. Using a panel of serious offenders, we examine the progression over age of the probability of participation in legal employment and offending, and consider how past participation in one regime is associated with the decision to remain in or switch regimes. We model desistance from crime as a discrete-time Markovian process, which allows us to trace the process of desistance prospectively and to embed within it participation in legal work or not. We find that the conditional probabilities of being in certain states (e.g., legal employment, crime) are heavily dependent on one's prior state. Furthermore, we find that this process has inertia-or memory-in that the probability of legal employment increases and the probability of crime decreases, based on accumulated legal employment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-52
Number of pages23
JournalSocial Problems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Crime and legal work: A markovian model of the desistance process'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this