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Crime versus Justice: Is There a Trade-Off?

Listed author(s):
  • Farmer, Amy
  • Terrell, Dek
Registered author(s):

    When society is divided into two groups with different actual or perceived crime rates, maintaining a low crime rate, minimizing the total number of innocent individuals convicted of a crime, and keeping the probability of wrongly convicting an innocent individual equal across groups are incompatible social goals. This paper fully develops these trade-offs. An empirical application of the model finds that these tradeoffs may be substantial. Specifically, we estimate that innocent black Americans would be roughly eight times more likely to be wrongly convicted of murder than innocent white Americans if society placed no value on equality when it comes to convictions. However, we estimate that eliminating inequality entirely could cost up to 1,900 lives annually because of a rise in the murder rate. Estimates reveal similar findings for gender inequality. In highlighting this serious dilemma, this paper suggests a need for awareness of costs of crime-reduction policies. Copyright 2001 by the University of Chicago.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/322816
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    Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Law & Economics.

    Volume (Year): 44 (2001)
    Issue (Month): 2 (October)
    Pages: 345-366

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    Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:44:y:2001:i:2:p:345-66
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/

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    1. Steven D. Levitt, 1995. "The Effect of Prison Population Size on Crime Rates: Evidence From Prison Overcrowding Litigation," NBER Working Papers 5119, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Timothy Feddersen & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1996. "Convicting the Innocent: The Inferiority of Unanimous Jury Verdicts," Discussion Papers 1170, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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