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Incarceration and Crime: Evidence from California's Public Safety Realignment Reform

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  • Lofstrom, Magnus

    ()
    (Public Policy Institute of California)

  • Raphael, Steven

    ()
    (University of California, Berkeley)

Abstract

We evaluate the effect of perhaps the largest exogenous decline in a state's incarceration rate in U.S. history on local crime rates. We assess the effects of a recent reform in California that caused a sharp and permanent reduction in the state's incarceration rate. We exploit the large variation across California counties in the effect of this reform on county-specific prison incarceration rates. We find very little evidence of an effect of the large reduction in incarceration rates on violent crime and evidence of modest effects on property crime, auto theft in particular. These effects are considerably smaller than existing estimates in the literature based on panel data for periods of time when the U.S. incarceration rate was considerably lower. We corroborate theses cross-county results with a synthetic-cohort analysis of state crime rates in California. This state-wide analysis confirms our findings from the county-level analysis. In conjunction with existing published research, the results from this study support the hypothesis of a crime-prison effect that diminishes with the scale of incarceration.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 7838.

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Length: 57 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7838

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Keywords: crime; incapacitation; incarceration; prison; realignment; reform;

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  1. Emily G. Owens, 2009. "More Time, Less Crime? Estimating the Incapacitative Effect of Sentence Enhancements," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(3), pages 551-579, 08.
  2. Drago, Francesco & Galbiati, Roberto & Vertova, Pietro, 2007. "The Deterrent Effects of Prison: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 6401, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Aaron Chalfin & Justin McCrary, 2013. "The Effect of Police on Crime: New Evidence from U.S. Cities, 1960-2010," NBER Working Papers 18815, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Rafael Di Tella & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2004. "Do Police Reduce Crime? Estimates Using the Allocation of Police Forces After a Terrorist Attack," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 115-133, March.
  5. Abadie, Alberto & Diamond, Alexis & Hainmueller, Jens, 2010. "Synthetic Control Methods for Comparative Case Studies: Estimating the Effect of California’s Tobacco Control Program," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 105(490), pages 493-505.
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