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Repeat offenders: If they learn, we punish them more severely

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  • Mungan, Murat C.
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    Abstract

    Many legal systems are designed to punish repeat offenders more severely than first time offenders. However, existing economic literature generally offers either mixed or qualified results regarding optimal punishment of repeat offenders. This paper analyzes optimal punishment schemes in a two period model, where the social planner announces possibly different sanctions for offenders based on their detection history. When offenders learn how to evade the detection mechanism employed by the government, escalating punishments can be optimal. The contributions of this paper can be listed as follows: First, it identifies and formalizes a source which may produce a marginal effect in the direction of punishing repeat offenders more severely, namely learning. Next, it identifies conditions under which the tendency in legal systems to punish repeat offenders more severely is justified. Overall, the findings suggest that traditional variables identified so far in the literature are not the only relevant ones in deciding how repeat offenders should be punished, and that learning dynamics should also be taken into account.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal International Review of Law and Economics.

    Volume (Year): 30 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 2 (June)
    Pages: 173-177

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:irlaec:v:30:y:2010:i:2:p:173-177

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/irle

    Related research

    Keywords: Repeat offenders Crime and deterrence Optimal sanctions;

    References

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    1. At Christian & Chappe Nathalie, 2008. "Timing of Crime, Learning and Sanction," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 35-44, February.
    2. Nyborg, Karine & Telle, Kjetil, 2003. "The Role of Warnings in Regulation: Keeping Control with Less Punishment," Memorandum 24/2003, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    3. Sah, Raaj K, 1991. "Social Osmosis and Patterns of Crime," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(6), pages 1272-95, December.
    4. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1999. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," NBER Working Papers 6993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Chu, C. Y. Cyrus & Hu, Sheng-cheng & Huang, Ting-yuan, 2000. "Punishing repeat offenders more severely," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 127-140, March.
    7. Emons, Winand, 2002. "Subgame Perfect Punishment for Repeat Offenders," CEPR Discussion Papers 3667, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1998. "On offense history and the theory of deterrence," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 305-324, September.
    9. Rubinstein, Ariel, 1980. "On an anomaly of the deterrent effect of punishment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 89-94.
    10. Emons, Winand, 2007. "Escalating penalties for repeat offenders," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 170-178.
    11. Garoupa, Nuno, 1997. " The Theory of Optimal Law Enforcement," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(3), pages 267-95, September.
    12. Thomas J. Miceli & Catherine Bucci, 2004. "A Simple Theory of Increasing Penalties for Repeat Offenders," Working papers 2004-39, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    13. Burnovski, Moshe & Safra, Zvi, 1994. "Deterrence effects of sequential punishment policies: Should repeat offenders be more severely punished?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 341-350, September.
    14. Landsberger, Michael & Meilijson, Isaac, 1982. "Incentive generating state dependent penalty system : The case of income tax evasion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 333-352, December.
    15. Nuno Garoupa, 2004. "Dynamic Law Enforcement with Learning," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(1), pages 192-206, April.
    16. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Daniel L. Rubinfeld, 1991. "A Model of Optimal Fines for Repeat Offenders," NBER Working Papers 3739, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Emons, Winand, 2003. "A note on the optimal punishment for repeat offenders," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 253-259, September.
    18. Shavell, Steven, 1991. "Specific versus General Enforcement of Law," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 1088-1108, October.
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    Cited by:
    1. Baumann, Florian & Friehe, Tim, 2012. "Self-report to self-control? A note," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(5), pages 727-729.
    2. Alfred Endres & Bianca Rundshagen, 2012. "Escalating penalties: a supergame approach," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 13(1), pages 29-49, March.
    3. Mungan, Murat C., 2014. "A behavioral justification for escalating punishment schemes," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 189-197.
    4. Thomas J. Miceli, 2012. "Escalating Interest in Escalating Penalties," Working papers 2012-08, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.

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