Great Pretenders: Pursuits and Careers of Persistent Thieves

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Westview Press, May 10, 1996 - Social Science - 219 pages
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Persistent thieves - criminals who resume committing crimes of burglary, robbery, vehicle theft, and ordinary theft despite previous attempts to stop - are a main focal point of American criminology and criminal justice. Great Pretenders is based on the author's original studies and previously published research and on more than fifty autobiographies of persistent thieves. Shover uses a crime-as-choice framework and a life-course perspective to make sense of important decisions and changes in the lives of persistent thieves.

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Pathways of Persistent Thieves
Origins Options and Preparation
Changing Criminal Opportunities and the Unskilled
Identity Lifestyle and Character
Career Changes and Termination
Threats Decisions and Confinement
Crime Control and Persistent Thieves
Materials and Methods
About the Book and Author

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Page 43 - They appeared to represent the cream of the crop of this generation. None had any criminal record and all were relatively homogeneous on many dimensions initially. Half were arbitrarily designated as prisoners by a flip of a coin, the others as guards. These were the roles they were to play in our simulated prison. The guards were made aware of the potential seriousness and danger of the situation and their own vulnerability. They made up their own formal rules for maintaining law, order and respect,...
Page 92 - A group or individual sets out to "make the rounds" of various bars or night clubs. Drinking continues progressively throughout the evening. Men seek to "pick up" women, and women play the risky game of entertaining sexual advances. Fights between men involving women, gambling, and claims of physical prowess, in various combinations, are frequent consequences of a night of making the rounds. The explosive potential of this type of adventuring with sex and aggression, frequently leading to "trouble,"...
Page 49 - Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.
Page 43 - We had to release three prisoners in the first four days because they had such acute situational traumatic reactions as hysterical crying, confusion in thinking and severe depression. Others begged to be paroled, and all but three were willing to forfeit all the money they had earned if they could be paroled.
Page 208 - Gresham M. Sykes and Sheldon L. Messinger, "The Inmate Social System," in Richard A. Cloward, Donald R. Cressey, George H. Grosser, Richard McCleery, Lloyd E. Ohlin, Gresham Sykes, and Sheldon L.
Page 65 - Burglary, properly executed, though it had its dangers, offered the maximum chances of success with the minimum risk. If you did your job so that you never met any of your victims, it lessened your chances of having to attack or perhaps kill someone. And if through some slip-up you were caught, later, by the police, there was never a positive eyewitness (1965:141-42).
Page 209 - December 7, 11, 12, 13, and 14, 1979, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs held hearings on illegal narcotics profits.
Page 88 - ... world: Dangerous killers who act alone and without emotion, who act with calculation and principles, to avenge themselves, establish and defend their principles with acts of murder that usually evade prosecution by law: this is the stateraised convicts' conception of manhood, in the highest sense. The model we emulate is a fanatically defiant and alienated individual who cannot imagine what forgiveness is, or mercy or tolerance, because he has no experience of such values. His emotions do not...
Page 106 - Straight people don't understand. I mean, they think dudes is after the things straight people got. It ain't that at alL People in the life ain't looking for no home and grass in the yard and shit like that. We the show people. The glamour people. Come on the set with the finest car, the finest woman, the finest vines. Hear people talking ahout you. Hear the har get quiet when you walk in the door. Throw down a yard and tell everyhody drink up. . . . You make something out of nothing.
Page 92 - Many of the most characteristic features of lower class life are related to the search for excitement or "thrill." Involved here are the highly prevalent use of alcohol by both sexes and the widespread use of gambling of all kinds— playing the numbers, betting on horse races, dice, cards. The quest for excitement finds what is perhaps its most vivid expression in the highly patterned practice of the recurrent "night on the town.

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About the author (1996)

Neal Shover is a professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

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