Who Pays for a Life of Crime? An Empirical Assessment of the Assorted Victimization Costs Posed by Career Criminals

Little research has investigated the victimization costs posed by habitual offenders. The current study seeks to fill this void using a cohort of 500 adult career criminals. The group amassed 29,882 arrests including 58 murders, 201 rapes, 55 kidnappings, 405 armed robberies, and 1101 aggravated assaults; 2801 felony convictions, and 1739 prison sentences. Their collective criminal behavior generated $415 804 000 in victim costs, $137 305 000 in criminal justice costs, and $14 736 500 in lost earnings. The average career criminal created $831 608 in victim costs, $274 610 in criminal justice system costs, and $29 473 in lost productivity, a total in excess of $1.14 million. Because a relatively small group of 500 offenders produced in excess of $570 million in human, victimization, and attendant costs, we conclude that, per capita, career criminals are among the most socially costly individuals in American society.

Publication Date

January 2003

Publication Name

Criminal Justice Studies

Violence type

Matt DeLisi
Jewel Gatling