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The Myths and Realities of Correctional Severity: Evidence from the National Corrections Reporting Program on Sentencing Practices

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  • John F. Pfaff

Abstract

The forces driving U.S. prison growth are poorly understood. This article examines one factor that has received insufficient attention: changes in time served. It demonstrates that time served has not risen dramatically in recent years, even declining in some jurisdictions. It also shows that time served is fairly short: median release times are approximately one to two years. Thus, admissions practices, not longer sentences, appear to drive prison growth. This article also examines whether time served varies across different types of inmates. Young, Hispanic, and violent offenders appear to serve longer sentences; race and sex appear to be of minor importance. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • John F. Pfaff, 2011. "The Myths and Realities of Correctional Severity: Evidence from the National Corrections Reporting Program on Sentencing Practices," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(2), pages 491-531.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:amlawe:v:13:y:2011:i:2:p:491-531
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/aler/ahr010
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    Cited by:

    1. Yang, Crystal S., 2017. "Local labor markets and criminal recidivism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 16-29.
    2. Bell, Brian & Bindler, Anna & Machin, Stephen, 2014. "Crime scars: recessions and the making of career criminals," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 60355, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Derek Neal & Armin Rick, 2014. "The Prison Boom and the Lack of Black Progress after Smith and Welch," NBER Working Papers 20283, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. repec:gam:jscscx:v:6:y:2017:i:2:p:60-:d:100904 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Bindler, Anna, 2016. "Still unemployed, what next? Crime and unemployment duration," Working Papers in Economics 660, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.

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