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A History of Future Crime: Prediction, Youth, and the Organisation of Suspicion in Criminology and American Society, 1900-1960

SHEPHERD, JOHN (2024) A History of Future Crime: Prediction, Youth, and the Organisation of Suspicion in Criminology and American Society, 1900-1960. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis explores the relationship between juvenile crime prediction and the human
sciences in the United States during the early twentieth century. Modern predictive policing
and risk assessment technologies have received increasing public attention for their
discriminatory potential but are frequently presented as novel disruptions, as tools and
methods without a history. This thesis addresses this oversight by offering an expanded view
of historical crime prediction and its development from 1900-1960 by criminologists in
collaboration with courts, school, clinics, correctional institutions, and welfare agencies.
Meeting the shared practical concern of future crime and its anticipation in these settings,
criminologists attempted to synthesise varied, conflicting, uncertain perspectives on children’s
futures into useable predictions and recommendations for practitioners. Working with the
juvenile courts of Chicago and then Boston in the 1910s and 1920s child guidance
collaborators William Healy and Augusta Bronner claimed prognostic authority to advise on a
given delinquent’s behavioural antecedents and expected trajectory but were, in practice,
dependent on networks of official and familial informants, whose priorities and anxieties had
to be accommodated. Subsequently, Harvard criminologists Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck used
statistics to critique the failure of clinical psychiatric approaches and promote their own
‘predictive instruments’, tables quantifying and computing background factors to score
criminal propensities and guide fallible decision makers. Using the Gluecks’ archival research
materials from 1930-1960, I then trace the assumptions, prejudices and negotiations which
informed their prediction tables and their subsequent modification in practice. Through these
episodes I reveal how crime prediction, by psychiatric expertise or actuarial quantification,
organised widespread extant suspicions and provided various practitioners with technical
validation of prior prejudices and expectations. In this way criminological crime prediction
ultimately contributed to the further criminalisation of poor, urban, racially marginalised

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Crime Prediction, Criminology, Psychiatry, Statistics, Delinquency
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Philosophy, Department of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 May 2024 09:13

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