Deitzer, J., Leban, L., Copes, H., & Wilcox, S. (2021). Criminal self-efficacy and perceptions of risk and reward among women methamphetamine manufacturers. Justice Quarterly. doi:10.1080/07418825.2021.1901965
People consider potential risks and rewards while deciding whether to engage in crime. Such perceptions and their impact on behavior can vary according to individual differences like criminal self-efficacy, or one’s perception of criminal competency. We examine perceptions of skill, risk, and reward using semi-structured interviews with 46 women “shake and bake” meth cooks currently residing in a halfway house in Alabama. Those who expressed cooking self-efficacy identified many tangible and intangible rewards in meth cooking, which motivated them to persist. They believed the risks were lower and surmountable, employing various risk management strategies. Those who did not express cooking self-efficacy saw cooking as anxiety-inducing, rather than rewarding. They saw the risks as inevitable and made little effort to prevent them but continued cooking to maintain access to meth. Findings indicate that individual levels of criminal self-efficacy should be considered in studies of decision-making and in intervention and treatment strategies.