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More Time, Less Crime? Estimating the Incapacitative Effect of Sentence Enhancements

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  • Emily G. Owens

Abstract

Sentence enhancements may reduce crime both by deterring potential criminals and by incapacitating previous offenders, removing these possible recidivists from society for longer periods. I estimate the incapacitative effect of longer sentences by exploiting a 2001 change in Maryland's sentencing guidelines that reduced the sentences of 23-, 24-, and 25-year-olds with juvenile delinquent records by a mean of 222 days. I find that, during this sentence disenhancement, offenders were, on average, arrested for 2.8 criminal acts and were involved in 1.4-1.6 serious crimes per person during the period when they would have otherwise been incarcerated. Although my findings are significantly lower than previous estimates of incapacitation, I find that, on the margin, the social benefit of the crimes averted by incapacitation is slightly higher than the marginal cost to the state of imposing a 1-year sentence enhancement. (c) 2009 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved..

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Law and Economics.

Volume (Year): 52 (2009)
Issue (Month): 3 (08)
Pages: 551-579

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:52:y:2009:i:3:p:551-579

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Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/

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Cited by:
  1. Paolo Buonanno & Steven Raphael, 2013. "Incarceration and Incapacitation: Evidence from the 2006 Italian Collective Pardon," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(6), pages 2437-65, October.
  2. Francesco Drago & Roberto Galbiati & Pietro Vertova, 2011. "Prison Conditions and Recidivism," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(1), pages 103-130.
  3. Vollaard, B.A., 2011. "Preventing Crime Through Selective Incapacitation," Discussion Paper 2011-001, Tilburg University, Tilburg Law and Economic Center.
  4. Lofstrom, Magnus & Raphael, Steven, 2013. "Incarceration and Crime: Evidence from California's Public Safety Realignment Reform," IZA Discussion Papers 7838, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Francesco Drago & Roberto Galbiati & Pietro Vertova, 2009. "The Deterrent Effects of Prison: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(2), pages 257-280, 04.
  6. Dara N. Lee, 2011. "The Digital Scarlet Letter: The Effect of Online Criminal Records on Crime," Working Papers 1118, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
  7. Edgar Villa & Andrés Salazar, 2013. "Poverty traps, economic inequality and incentives for delinquency," REVISTA CUADERNOS DE ECONOMÍA, UN - RCE - CID.
  8. David S. Abrams, 2012. "Estimating the Deterrent Effect of Incarceration Using Sentencing Enhancements," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 32-56, October.
  9. Francesco Drago & Roberto Galbiati, 2012. "Indirect Effects of a Policy Altering Criminal Behavior: Evidence from the Italian Prison Experiment," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 199-218, April.
  10. Alessandro Barbarino & Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2013. "The Incapacitation Effect of Incarceration: Evidence from Several Italian Collective Pardons?," Economics Discussion Papers 737, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  11. Benjamin Hansen, 2014. "Punishment and Deterrence: Evidence from Drunk Driving," NBER Working Papers 20243, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Derek Neal & Armin Rick, 2014. "The Prison Boom and the Lack of Black Progress after Smith and Welch," NBER Working Papers 20283, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Michael F. Lovenheim & Emily G. Owens, 2013. "Does Federal Financial Aid Affect College Enrollment? Evidence from Drug Offenders and the Higher Education Act of 1998," NBER Working Papers 18749, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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