Real World Implications for Criminal Justice. Retrieved April 8, 2014 from http://www.naturalism.org/stanko.htm
I don't think the term “criminal” is differentiates enough between criminals committing “mala in se” offenses, and “mala prohibita” offenses. By the way, I will probably bore you to death this quarter with my overuse of those terms. But I do believe that it is important to distinguish between the types of criminals, as I think rehabilitative methods more appropriate for those committing “mala prohibita” crimes.
In fact, I think that using the criminal justice system to punish things that are only crimes due to the shrieking of do-gooders to be morally repugnant and counter productive to society to begin with.
Moving on to your question, and looking at the Manson and DeSalvo cases, I definitely think that these criminals used a rational process in deciding whether to commit their crimes or not. However, I don't think that the criminals' risk/reward valuing weights are the same as the weights assigned by the researchers. One of the problems overlooked by empirical researchers is the assumption that all humans have the same values. As a counter to the perception that prison is a negative reward for everyone, we can see Manson asking to stay in prison in 1967. We can also see that a term in prison is valued as an experience amongst some street gangs, and use tattoos to mark their “service”.
In terms of mala in se criminals, then, I do think that incapacitation is the best solution. We can guarantee that a criminal has much less of a chance to harm the public when they are behind bars or 6 feet deep.