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The Incapacitation Effect of Incarceration: Evidence from Several Italian Collective Pardons

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  • Alessandro Barbarino
  • Giovanni Mastrobuoni

Abstract

We estimate the "incapacitation effect" on crime using variation in Italian prison population driven by eight collective pardons passed between 1962 and 1990. The prison releases are sudden (within one day), very large (up to 35 percent of the entire prison population), and happen nationwide. Exploiting this quasi-natural experiment we break the simultaneity of crime and prisoners and, in addition, use the national character of the pardons to separately identify incapacitation from changes in deterrence. The elasticity of total crime with respect to incapacitation is between -17 and -30 percent. A cost-benefit analysis suggests that Italy's prison population is below its optimal level.

Suggested Citation

  • Alessandro Barbarino & Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2014. "The Incapacitation Effect of Incarceration: Evidence from Several Italian Collective Pardons," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 1-37, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:6:y:2014:i:1:p:1-37
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/pol.6.1.1
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Manudeep Bhuller & Gordon B. Dahl & Katrine V. Løken & Magne Mogstad, 2016. "Incarceration, Recidivism and Employment," NBER Working Papers 22648, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Christoph Engel, 2016. "Experimental Criminal Law. A Survey of Contributions from Law, Economics and Criminology," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2016_07, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
    3. Ater, Itai & Givati, Yehonatan & Rigbi, Oren, 2014. "Organizational structure, police activity and crime," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 62-71.
    4. repec:clg:wpaper:2009-06 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2011. "Optimal Criminal Behavior and the Disutility of Jail: Theory and Evidence On Bank Robberies," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 220, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
    6. Francesco Fasani, 2016. "Immigrant Crime and Legal Status: Evidence from Repeated Amnesty Programs," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1621, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
    7. Giovanni Mastrobuoni & Paolo Pinotti, 2015. "Legal Status and the Criminal Activity of Immigrants," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 175-206, April.
    8. repec:bla:ausecr:v:49:y:2016:i:4:p:515-523 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Munyo, Ignacio & Rossi, Martín A., 2015. "First-day criminal recidivism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 81-90.
    10. Magnus Lofstrom & Steven Raphael, 2016. "Crime, the Criminal Justice System, and Socioeconomic Inequality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(2), pages 103-126, Spring.
    11. Mueller-Smith, Michael & Schnepel, Kevin T., 2016. "Avoiding Convictions: Regression Discontinuity Evidence on Court Deferrals for First-Time Drug Offenders," IZA Discussion Papers 10409, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. Mastrobuoni, Giovanni & Rivers, David A., 2016. "Criminal Discount Factors and Deterrence," IZA Discussion Papers 9769, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    13. 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 2437-2465, October.
    14. 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.
    15. Maurin, Eric & Ouss, Aurelie, 2009. "Sentence Reductions and Recidivism: Lessons from the Bastille Day Quasi Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 3990, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    16. Matteo Rizzolli, 2016. "Adjudication: Type-I and Type-II Errors," CERBE Working Papers wpC15, CERBE Center for Relationship Banking and Economics.
    17. O’Flaherty, Brendan & Sethi, Rajiv, 2015. "Urban Crime," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.
    18. repec:oup:jeurec:v:15:y:2017:i:2:p:388-428. is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Mueller-Smith, Michael & Schnepel, Kevin T., 2016. "Avoiding Convictions: Regression Discontinuity Evidence on Court Deferrals for First-Time Drug Offenders," Working Papers 2016-16, University of Sydney, School of Economics.
    20. Giovanni Mastrobuoni & Daniele Terlizzese, 2014. "Harsh or Humane - Detention Conditions and Recidivism," EIEF Working Papers Series 1413, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF), revised Oct 2017.
    21. repec:aea:aejpol:v:9:y:2017:i:2:p:1-27 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. Gehrsitz, Markus, 2017. "Speeding, Punishment, and Recidivism: Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design," IZA Discussion Papers 10707, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    23. Giovanni Mastrobuoni & Paolo Pinotti, 2014. "The Ups and Downs in Women's Employment: Shifting Composition or Behavior from 1970 to 2010?," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 14-212, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    24. Endres Alfred & Rundshagen Bianca, 2016. "Optimal Penalties for Repeat Offenders – The Role of Offence History," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 16(2), pages 545-578, June.
    25. Nadia Campaniello & Theodoros M. Diasakos & Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2017. "Rationalizable Suicides: Evidence from Changes in Inmates’ Expected Length of Sentence," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 15(2), pages 388-428.

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    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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