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Reducing crime through expungements

Listed author(s):
  • Mungan, Murat C.
Registered author(s):

    Expungement refers to the legal practice of having one's criminal record sealed. These legal devices lower the visibility of a person's criminal record, and thereby reduce the informal sanctions that may be imposed on him. This reduction is enjoyed by the ex-convict only if he does not become a repeat offender, because otherwise he re-obtains a criminal record. Thus, the value a person attaches to having his record expunged is inversely related to his criminal tendency. Therefore, by making expungements costly, the criminal justice system can sort out low criminal tendency individuals – who are unlikely to recidivate – from people who have high criminal tendencies. Moreover, the availability of expungements does not substantially affect a first time offender's incentive to commit crime, because one incurs a cost close to the reduction in informal sanctions that he enjoys by sealing his criminal record. On the other hand, expungements increase specific deterrence, because a person who has no visible record suffers informal sanctions if he is convicted a second time. Thus, perhaps counter-intuitively, allowing ex-convicts to seal their records at substantial costs reduces crime.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167268117300860
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

    Volume (Year): 137 (2017)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 398-409

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:137:y:2017:i:c:p:398-409
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2017.03.021
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

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