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An empirical analysis of imprisoning drug offenders

  • Kuziemko, Ilyana
  • Levitt, Steven D.

The number of prisoners incarcerated on drug-related offenses rose fifteen-fold between 1980 and 2000. This paper provides the first systematic empirical analysis of the implications of that dramatic shift in public policy. We show that the increase in drug prisoners led to reductions in expected time served for other crimes, especially for less serious offenses. Reductions in time served, however, increased other crimes by no more than a few percent. Moreover, incarcerating drug offenders is found to be almost as effective in reducing violent and property crime as locking up other types of offenders. We estimate that cocaine prices are 10-15 percent higher today as a consequence of increases in drug punishment since 1985. Based on previous estimates of the price elasticity of demand for cocaine, this implies a reduction in cocaine consumed of as much as 20 percent.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 88 (2004)
Issue (Month): 9-10 (August)
Pages: 2043-2066

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:88:y:2004:i:9-10:p:2043-2066
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  15. Sohler Everingham, Susan M. & Peter Rydell, C. & Caulkins, Jonathan P., 1995. "Cocaine consumption in the United States: Estimating past trends and future scenarios," Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 305-314, December.
  16. Frank J. Chaloupka & Michael Grossman & John A. Tauras, 1999. "The Demand for Cocaine and Marijuana by Youth," NBER Chapters, in: The Economic Analysis of Substance Use and Abuse: An Integration of Econometrics and Behavioral Economic Research, pages 133-156 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Steven D. Levitt & Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh, 1998. "An Economic Analysis of a Drug-Selling Gang's Finances," NBER Working Papers 6592, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  20. John J. Donohue & Steven D. Levitt, 1999. "Legalized Abortion and Crime," JCPR Working Papers 104, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
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