The Lack of Specialization of Homicide Offenders

Leonore M.J. Simon, East Tennessee State University

Past popular and scholarly conceptions of homicide offenders view them as distinct and more specialized than other types of offenders. Control theory suggests that homicide offenders have criminal records that are versatile in the types of offenses committed, but that they tend to have lower recidivism rates because they spend more time incarcerated. This study examines offense versatility and the victim-offender relationship of a sample of incarcerated and convicted homicide offenders (N=122) and compares their past criminal records with 219 incarcerated and convicted non-homicide violent offenders. The results indicate that homicide offenders have criminal records that are comparable to other violent offenders. Lastly, homicide offenders with a relationship to the victim are as versatile in their rap sheets as are stranger offenders. The implications of the results for theory, research, and legal treatment of homicide offenders are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006