Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Frederick W. Preston

Number of Pages



Selective incapacitation has been defined as an objective process whereby violent and/or chronic offenders are isolated and given longer prison terms. The purpose of this process is to keep these offenders out of society for longer periods of time resulting in a safer society. Couched within this utilitarian perspective is the assumption that the social sciences have developed a reputable formula from which future criminal behavior can be accurately predicted. This research, a case study of a Nevada presentence investigation unit, found that all convicted offenders are dealt with using the same criteria applied to violent and/or chronic offenders. This study employed a triangulated research strategy (participant observation, interview, document analysis, and quasi-experiment methods) which reveals that the subjective nature of social actors appears to supersede the scientifically-objective sentence recommendation guidelines. Interviews were conducted with 17 presentence investigators, which included their participation in a quasi-experiment using a scenario set with two hypothetical criminal cases. Data indicate that, inadvertently, institutional racism, sexism, classism, etc., play an active role, as proxy indicators, in the sentence recommendation process.


Decision; Domain; Makers; Nature; Objective; Policy; Processing; Sentence; Sentencing; Subjective; Sentencing

Controlled Subject

Criminology; Social sciences--Research

File Format


File Size

10792.96 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have the full text removed from Digital Scholarship@UNLV, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL.


IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit