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Responses to More Severe Punishment in the Courtroom: Evidence from Truth-in-Sentencing Laws

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  • Fusako Tsuchimoto
  • Libor Dusek

Abstract

We investigate behavioral responses of judges and prosecutors to more severe punishments by analyzing the effects of Truth-in-Sentencing (TIS) laws in a large sample of individual criminal cases. The TIS laws raised effective punishment by requiring offenders to serve at least 85% of their imposed sentence in prison. Differences between the U.S. states in the timing of adoption and the types of crimes covered provide a source of identification. The key findings are: (1) The TIS laws reduced the probability that an arrested offender is eventually convicted by 25% through an increase in the probability that the case is dismissed, a reduction in the probability that the defendant pleads guilty, and a reduction in the probability that the defendant is convicted at trial. (2) The TIS laws the reduced the imposed sentence that a defendant may expect upon arrest by 14%. The behavioral responses are empirically important to partially mitigate the intended deterrent effect of the TIS laws.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economic Institute, Prague in its series CERGE-EI Working Papers with number wp403.

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Date of creation: Dec 2009
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Handle: RePEc:cer:papers:wp403

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Keywords: Criminal procedure; criminal law; sentencing; Truth-in-Sentencing laws.;

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  1. Snyder, Edward A, 1990. "The Effect of Higher Criminal Penalties on Antitrust Enforcement," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 439-62, October.
  2. Shepherd, Joanna M, 2002. "Police, Prosecutors, Criminals, and Determinate Sentencing: The Truth about Truth-in-Sentencing Laws," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(2), pages 509-34, October.
  3. Daniel P. Kessler & Anne Morrison Piehl, 1997. "The Role of Discretion in the Criminal Justice System," NBER Working Papers 6261, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Reinganum, Jennifer F, 1988. "Plea Bargaining and Prosecutorial Discretion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 713-28, September.
  5. Bjerk, David, 2005. "Making the Crime Fit the Penalty: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion under Mandatory Minimum Sentencing," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 48(2), pages 591-625, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Ross, Amanda, 2012. "Crime, police, and truth-in-sentencing: The impact of state sentencing policy on local communities," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 144-152.

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