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Do legal origins affect cross-country incarceration rates?

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  • D’Amico, Daniel J.
  • Williamson, Claudia

Abstract

Prison populations vary tremendously across countries. This paper investigates the potential relationship between incarceration rates and legal origins in a large cross-section of countries. We argue that legal origins alter the relative costs associated with imprisonment as a means for social control. Using panel data from 2001 to 2011, we find countries with civil legal origins have lower prison populations. Our empirical results are highly robust after controlling for crime rates, criminal justice resources, economic factors, political institutions, and social factors. In addition, our results do not appear to be driven by the variation in criminalized activities. To explain these results, we conjecture that imprisonment is a lower cost mechanism for enforcing social order in common law countries. In civil law countries, bureaucratic infrastructures allow for methods such as day-fines, community service, seizure of property, and probation as more affordable alternatives to imprisonment.

Suggested Citation

  • D’Amico, Daniel J. & Williamson, Claudia, 2015. "Do legal origins affect cross-country incarceration rates?," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 595-612.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:43:y:2015:i:3:p:595-612
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jce.2014.11.002
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    1. Galinato, Gregmar I. & Rohla, Ryne, 2020. "Do privately-owned prisons increase incarceration rates?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(C).
    2. Simplice A. Asongu & Jacinta C. Nwachukwu & Chris Pyke, 2019. "The Right to Life: Global Evidence on the Role of Security Officers and the Police in Modulating the Effect of Insecurity on Homicide," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 143(2), pages 727-740, June.
    3. Skarbek, David, 2016. "Covenants without the Sword? Comparing Prison Self-Governance Globally," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 110(4), pages 845-862, November.
    4. Asongu, Simplice, 2017. "Persistence in Incarcerations: Global Comparative Evidence," MPRA Paper 85483, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Simplice A. Asongu & Jacinta C. Nwachukwu & Stella-Maris I. Orim & Chris Pyke, 2019. "Crime and Social Media," Research Africa Network Working Papers 19/003, Research Africa Network (RAN).
    6. Wen, Jun & Zhang, Sen & Chang, Chun-Ping, 2022. "Legal origins and innovation: Global evidence," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 174(C).
    7. Daniel J. D’Amico & Claudia R. Williamson, 2019. "An empirical examination of institutions and cross-country incarceration rates," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 180(3), pages 217-242, September.
    8. Tsikas, Stefanos A., 2017. "Enforce Tax Compliance, but Cautiously: The Role of Trust in Authorities and Power of Authorities," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-589, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
    9. Nick Cowen, 2018. "Robust Against Whom?," Advances in Austrian Economics, in: Steven Horwitz (ed.), Austrian Economics: The Next Generation, volume 23, pages 91-111, Emerald Publishing Ltd.
    10. Cristina Bicchieri, 2002. "Covenants without Swords," Rationality and Society, , vol. 14(2), pages 192-228, May.
    11. Glauco De Vita & Chengchun Li & Yun Luo, 2022. "Legal origin and financial development: A propensity score matching analysis," International Journal of Finance & Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(1), pages 535-553, January.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Incarceration; Prisons; Legal origins; Crime;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • K14 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law - - - Criminal Law
    • K33 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - International Law
    • P5 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems
    • F55 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - International Institutional Arrangements

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