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Repeat offenders: If they learn, we punish them more severely

  • Mungan, Murat C.
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    Many legal systems are designed to punish repeat offenders more severely than first time offenders. However, existing economic literature generally offers either mixed or qualified results regarding optimal punishment of repeat offenders. This paper analyzes optimal punishment schemes in a two period model, where the social planner announces possibly different sanctions for offenders based on their detection history. When offenders learn how to evade the detection mechanism employed by the government, escalating punishments can be optimal. The contributions of this paper can be listed as follows: First, it identifies and formalizes a source which may produce a marginal effect in the direction of punishing repeat offenders more severely, namely learning. Next, it identifies conditions under which the tendency in legal systems to punish repeat offenders more severely is justified. Overall, the findings suggest that traditional variables identified so far in the literature are not the only relevant ones in deciding how repeat offenders should be punished, and that learning dynamics should also be taken into account.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V7M-4XV5P0W-1/2/053fb9220611209ec99d6cf24ced9cd9
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal International Review of Law and Economics.

    Volume (Year): 30 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 2 (June)
    Pages: 173-177

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:irlaec:v:30:y:2010:i:2:p:173-177
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/irle

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    1. Jellal, Mohamed & Garoupa, Nuno, 2004. "Dynamic law enforcement with learning," MPRA Paper 38480, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Sah, R.K., 1990. "Social Osmosis And Patterns Of Crime: A Dynamic Economic Analysis," Papers 609, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
    3. Nyborg, Karine & Telle, Kjetil, 2004. "The role of warnings in regulation: keeping control with less punishment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2801-2816, December.
    4. Winand Emons, 2003. "Escalating Penalties for Repeat Offenders," Diskussionsschriften dp0315, Universitaet Bern, Departement Volkswirtschaft.
    5. Winand Emons, 2001. "A Note on the Optimal Punishment for Repeat Offenders," Diskussionsschriften dp0104, Universitaet Bern, Departement Volkswirtschaft.
    6. Winand Emons, 2004. "Subgame-Perfect Punishment for Repeat Offenders," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 42(3), pages 496-502, July.
    7. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," NBER Chapters, in: Essays in the Economics of Crime and Punishment, pages 1-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Rubinstein, Ariel, 1980. "On an anomaly of the deterrent effect of punishment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 89-94.
    9. Steven Shavell, 1989. "Specific Versus General Enforcement of Law," NBER Working Papers 3062, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Miceli Thomas J. & Bucci Catherine, 2005. "A Simple Theory of Increasing Penalties for Repeat Offenders," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 71-80, April.
    11. Garoupa, Nuno, 1997. " The Theory of Optimal Law Enforcement," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(3), pages 267-95, September.
    12. Chu, C. Y. Cyrus & Hu, Sheng-cheng & Huang, Ting-yuan, 2000. "Punishing repeat offenders more severely," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 127-140, March.
    13. Burnovski, Moshe & Safra, Zvi, 1994. "Deterrence effects of sequential punishment policies: Should repeat offenders be more severely punished?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 341-350, September.
    14. Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1998. "On offense history and the theory of deterrence," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 305-324, September.
    15. Landsberger, Michael & Meilijson, Isaac, 1982. "Incentive generating state dependent penalty system : The case of income tax evasion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 333-352, December.
    16. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Daniel L. Rubinfeld, 1991. "A Model of Optimal Fines for Repeat Offenders," NBER Working Papers 3739, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. A. Mitchell Polinsky & Steven Shavell, 1999. "The Economic Theory of Public Enforcement of Law," NBER Working Papers 6993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. At Christian & Chappe Nathalie, 2008. "Timing of Crime, Learning and Sanction," Review of Law & Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 4(1), pages 35-44, February.
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