The Criminal Careers of Italian Mafia Members

  • Ernesto U. SavonaEmail author
  • Francesco Calderoni
  • Gian Maria Campedelli
  • Tommaso Comunale
  • Marco Ferrarini
  • Cecilia Meneghini


This chapter provides the first analyses of the criminal career of the Italian mafias members. The analysis is based on the unique Proton Mafia Member dataset, provided by the Italian Ministry of Justice, with information on all individuals who received a final conviction for mafia offences since the 1980s. The PMM includes information on more than 11 thousand individuals and 182 thousand offences. The study explores the career of mafia members following a three-level approach, analyzing the macro, meso, and micro dimensions of the criminal careers of the mafiosi. At the macro level, Italian mafias’ member show different types of criminal trajectories, with a significant portion of the sample exhibiting a late onset and late persistence pattern. At the meso level, the four main types of mafias (the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, the Neapolitan Camorra, the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta, and the Apulian mafias) report very similar traits although some distinctive patterns emerge. At the micro level, there are differences in the criminal career between early- and lately- recruited member, with the former showing higher frequency of violent, volume crime and the latter a more complex, white collar profile. A further exploration of the PMM data shows an escalation in both the number and the seriousness of crimes before joining the mafias, which subsequently stabilize afterwards.


Mafia Organized crime Criminal career 


  1. Albini, J. L. (1971). The American Mafia: Genesis of a legend. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  2. Antimafia, D. I. (2002). Relazione del Ministro dell’Interno al Parlamento sull’attività svolta e sui risultati conseguiti dalla Direzione Investigativa Antimafia. 1° Semestre 2002. In Rome.Google Scholar
  3. Berlusconi, G. (2014). Italian Mafia. In G. Bruinsma & D. Weisburd (Eds.), Encyclopedia of criminology and criminal justice. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  4. Blokland, A. a. J., & Nieuwbeerta, P. (2005). The effects of life circumstances on longitudinal trajectories of offending∗. Criminology, 43(4), 1203–1240. Scholar
  5. Blumstein, A., Cohen, J., Roth, J. A., & Visher, C. A. (1986). Criminal careers and ‘career criminals’ (National Research Council (U S. ) panel on research on criminal careers). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  6. Blumstein, A., Cohen, J., & Farrington, D. P. (1988). Criminal career research: Its value for criminology. Criminology, 26(1), 1–35. Scholar
  7. Carvalho, L. S., & Soares, R. R. (2016). Living on the edge: Youth entry, career and exit in drug-selling gangs. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 121, 77–98. Scholar
  8. Ciconte, E. (1992). ‘Ndrangheta dall’unità a oggi. Bari: Editori Laterza.Google Scholar
  9. Ciconte, E. (2014). Origins and development of the ‘Ndrangheta. In N. Serenata (Ed.), The ‘Ndrangheta and Sacra Corona Unita (Vol. 12, pp. 33–50). Cham: Springer International Publishing. Scholar
  10. Commissione Parlamentare Antimafia. (2012). Relazione sulla prima fase dei lavori della Commissione, con particolare riguardo al condizionamento delle mafie sull’economia, sulla societa` e sulle istituzioni del Mezzogiorno. Commissione Parlamentare d’Inchiesta sul Fenomeno della Mafia e sulle altre Associazioni Criminali, anche Straniere, Doc. XXIII, n. 9, XVI legislatura. Rome.Google Scholar
  11. Commissione Parlamentare Antimafia. (2018). Relazione conclusiva. Rome: Commissione parlamentare di inchiesta sul fenomenodella mafia e sulle altre associazioni criminali, anche straniere. Doc. XXIII, n. 38, Rome.Google Scholar
  12. Europol. (2013). Threat assessment: Italian organized crime. In June.Google Scholar
  13. Farrington, D. P. (1992). Criminal career research in the United Kingdom. The British Journal of Criminology, 32(4), 521–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Farrington, D. P., MacLeod, J. F., & Piquero, A. R. (2016). Mathematical models of criminal careers. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 53(3), 336–355. Scholar
  15. Francis, B., Humphreys, L., Kirby, S., & Soothill, K. (2013). Understanding criminal careers in organised crime (Report). Home Office. Accessed 19 Oct 2017.
  16. Fuller, G., Morgan, A., & Brown, R. (2019). Criminal histories of Australian organised crime offenders (no. 567). Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology.Google Scholar
  17. Glueck, S., & Glueck, E. (1968). Delinquents and nondelinquents in perspective. Cambridge: Harvard Univ Press. Accessed 20 Jan 2018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hess, H. (1993). Mafia: Le origini e la struttura. Roma-Bari: Editori Laterza.Google Scholar
  19. Jones, B. L., & Nagin, D. S. (2013). A note on a Stata plugin for estimating group-based trajectory models. Sociological Methods & Research, 42(4), 608–613. Scholar
  20. Kleemans, E. R., & de Poot, C. J. (2008). Criminal careers in organized crime and social opportunity structure. European Journal of Criminology, 5(1), 69–98. Scholar
  21. Kleemans, E. R., & van Koppen, M. V. (2014). Careers in organized crime. In D. Weisburd & G. Bruinsma (Eds.), Encyclopedia of criminology and criminal justice. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  22. Kyvsgaard, B. (2002). The criminal career: The Danish longitudinal study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Laub, J. H., Nagin, D. S., & Sampson, R. J. (1998). Trajectories of change in criminal offending: Good marriages and the desistance process. American Sociological Review, 63(2), 225–238. Scholar
  24. Lussier, P., Tzoumakis, S., Cale, J., & Amirault, J. (2010). Criminal trajectories of adult sex offenders and the age effect: Examining the dynamic aspect of offending in adulthood. International Criminal Justice Review, 20(2), 147–168. Scholar
  25. Massari, M. (2014). The Sacra Corona Unita: Origins, characteristics, and strategies. In The ‘Ndrangheta and Sacra Corona Unita (pp. 101–116). Cham: Springer. Scholar
  26. Nagin, D. S. (2016). Group-based trajectory modeling and criminal career research. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 53(3), 356–371. Scholar
  27. Paoli, L. (2008). The decline of the Italian mafia. In Organized crime: Culture, markets and policies (pp. 15–28). New York: Springer. Scholar
  28. Paoli, L. (2014). The Italian mafia. In L. Paoli (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of organized crime (pp. 121–141). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Piquero, A. R., Farrington, D. P., & Blumstein, A. (2003). The criminal career paradigm. Crime and Justice, 30, 359–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Piquero, A. R., Raymond, P., Paul, M., Robert, B., & Charles W. D. (1999). Onset Age and Offense Specialization. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 36(3), 275–299.
  31. Rhodes, W. (1989). The Criminal Career: Estimates of the Duration and Frequency of Crime Commission. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 5(1), 3–32.
  32. Sales, I. (2015). Storia dell’Italia mafiosa: perché le mafie hanno avuto successo. Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino.Google Scholar
  33. Savona, E. U., Calderoni, F., Campedelli, G. M., Comunale, T., Ferrarini, M., & Meneghini, C. (2017a). Recruitment into mafias: criminal careers of mafia members and mafia bosses (report on factors relating to OC) (pp. 192–312). Milan: UCSC-Transcrime. Scholar
  34. Savona, E. U., Calderoni, F., Superchi, E., Comunale, T., Campedelli, G. M., Marchesi, M. E., & Kamprad, A. (2017b). Systematic review of the social, psychological and economic factors relating to criminalisation and recruitment to OC (report on factors relating to OC) (pp. 5–71). Milan: UCSC-Transcrime. Scholar
  35. Serenata, N. (2014). Introduction. In N. Serenata (Ed.), The ‘Ndrangheta and Sacra Corona Unita (Vol. 12, pp. 1–13). Cham: Springer International Publishing. Scholar
  36. van de Rakt, M., Murray, J., & Nieuwbeerta, P. (2012). The long-term effects of paternal imprisonment on criminal trajectories of children. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 49(1), 81–108. Scholar
  37. Van Koppen, M. V., de Poot, C. J., Kleemans, E. R., & Nieuwbeerta, P. (2010). Criminal trajectories in organized crime. The British Journal of Criminology, 50(1), 102–123. Scholar
  38. van Onna, J. H. R., van der Geest, V. R., Huisman, W., & Denkers, A. J. M. (2014). Criminal trajectories of white-collar offenders. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 51(6), 759–784. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernesto U. Savona
    • 1
    Email author
  • Francesco Calderoni
    • 1
  • Gian Maria Campedelli
    • 1
  • Tommaso Comunale
    • 1
  • Marco Ferrarini
    • 2
  • Cecilia Meneghini
    • 1
  1. 1.Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and TranscrimeMilanItaly
  2. 2.Business IntelligenceMilanItaly

Personalised recommendations