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

  • Alessandro Barbarino
  • Giovanni Mastrobuoni

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.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.

Volume (Year): 6 (2014)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 1-37

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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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  1. Drago, Francesco & Galbiati, Roberto & Vertova, Pietro, 2007. "The Deterrent Effects of Prison: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," CEPR Discussion Papers 6401, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Paolo Buonanno & Daniel Montolio & Paolo Vanin, 2006. "Does Social Capital Reduce Crime?," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0029, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
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  5. Marselli, Riccardo & Vannini, Marco, 1997. "Estimating a crime equation in the presence of organized crime: Evidence from Italy," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 89-113, March.
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  7. H. Naci Mocan & R. Kaj Gittings, 2001. "Pardons, Executions and Homicide," NBER Working Papers 8639, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Milo Bianchi & Paolo Buonanno & Paolo Pinotti, 2008. "Do Immigrants Cause Crime?," Working Papers (-2012) 0801, University of Bergamo, Department of Economics.
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  10. Lawrence Katz & Steven D. Levitt & Ellen Shustorovich, 2003. "Prison Conditions, Capital Punishment, and Deterrence," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(2), pages 318-343, August.
  11. Emily G. Owens, 2009. "More Time, Less Crime? Estimating the Incapacitative Effect of Sentence Enhancements," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(3), pages 551-579, 08.
  12. Eric Helland & Alexander Tabarrok, 2007. "Does Three Strikes Deter?: A Nonparametric Estimation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(2).
  13. Orley Ashenfelter & Michael Greenstone, 2004. "Estimating the Value of a Statistical Life: The Importance of Omitted Variables and Publication Bias," Working Papers 858, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  14. Kessler, Daniel P & Levitt, Steven D, 1999. "Using Sentence Enhancements to Distinguish between Deterrence and Incapacitation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(1), pages 343-63, April.
  15. C. Detotto & M. Vannini, 2010. "Counting the cost of crime in Italy," Working Paper CRENoS 201013, Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia.
  16. Milo Bianchi & Paolo Buonanno & Paolo Pinotti, 2008. "Do immigrants cause crime?," Working Papers halshs-00586864, HAL.
  17. repec:pri:cepsud:97ashenfelter is not listed on IDEAS
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